By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE highly contagious Delta variant is the predominant strain in The Bahamas, the Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday, after getting back genomic sequencing results from samples sent to a laboratory in Brazil.
The announcement comes as 104 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the latest dashboard for September 7. The number of hospitalised cases also ticked upwards for a new record of 193, including 15 people in the intensive care unit.
To date, 453 people have died from COVID-19.
Large crowds have been seen gathering for recent political events such as motorcades and drive-in rallies, while thousands of people are expected to vote in today’s advance poll ahead of next week’s general election.
Health officials have again urged people to avoid large groups of more than five people and to remain at least six feet away from others.
The ministry said in a statement: “The National Reference Laboratory submitted 98 SARS-CoV-2 virus-positive samples to the FIOCRUZ Laboratory for genomic sequencing. The samples were collected between May 6, 2021 and August 8, 2021 from individuals on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma and Bimini.”
Of the 98 samples, 41 showed sequencing for the Delta variant, 39 for the Alpha variant while one was positive for the Gamma strain.
The Ministry of Health said there remains 18 samples going through the genomic testing process.
“The new sequencing results confirm that the Delta variant is the predominant variant in The Bahamas, followed by the Alpha and Gamma variants,” the ministry said. “It is noteworthy to mention that the Alpha variant is more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus, and the Delta variant is known to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant. Consequently, all major health facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama are experiencing increased numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths due to COVID-19.”
Health officials had long suspected the Delta variant was in the country, but was awaiting confirmation from the Brazil lab.
Officials said while the healthcare system is overburdened, those displaying coronavirus symptoms should not delay seeking medical attention.
“The health care system of both the public and private sectors is now severely challenged and overburdened, and as a result, non-COVID-19 cases requiring health care are at risk of not being able to access life-saving health care,” the Ministry of Health said.
“Given the predominance of these highly transmissible variants in the country, it is essential to seek medical care early and avoid home remedies that delay accessing medical care. Do not delay seeking medical help if you experience signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Contact your healthcare provider or nearest public health clinic for more information.”
Health officials asked people to adhere to health protocols.
“Additionally, we strongly encourage all citizens and residents of The Bahamas to be vaccinated,” the ministry said. “COVID-19 vaccinations are proven to be safe. They are known to decrease the severity of illness, hospitalisations, and deaths, if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and all its variants. To book an appointment visit vax.gov.bs or make a walk-up appointment.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant is highly contagious, “more than 2x as contagious as previous variants”.
The CDC also says “some data suggest the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous variants in unvaccinated people.” The agency said while fully vaccinated people with breakthrough cases due to the Delta strain can spread the virus to others, “vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time”.
“The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to get infected, and therefore transmit the virus,” the CDC’s website says. “Fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 (known as breakthrough infections) less often than unvaccinated people. People infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit the virus to others.”