by Linda Straker
- New strain of Covid-19 called Omicron is variant of concern
- Individuals with a travel history in the last 14 days to 5 African nations not allowed into Grenada
- WHO advisory went into immediate effect
Grenada will not be allowing Individuals from several African countries to enter the country as a result of reports that the new Covid-19 Variant of Concern (VOC) is affecting South Africa and other territories on the African Continent.
“Persons with a travel history in the last 14 days to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini will not be allowed into Grenada. It comes in the wake of reports of a new strain of Covid-19, called Omicron, which has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a variant of concern,” said a news release from the Government Information Service (GIS).
The advisory which went into effect immediately was issued minutes after the WHO issued a statement asking countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand the new circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The statement from the WHO said that the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus. The TAG-VE was convened on 26 November 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529.
“The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterised by 3 distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.” The statement explained this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.
Called Omicron, the preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the 3 target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation.
“Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage. There are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant.” The statement assured the WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed. Grenada is a member of WHO.
Besides enhancing surveillance, the WHO also wants countries to submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID; Report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism and where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on Covid-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralisation, or other relevant characteristics.