Residents could know in a matter of days if Barbados has a new and more infectious variant of the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

Local health officials have disclosed that ten positive COVID-19 samples were sent to the Port of Spain headquartered Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) on Monday for analysis.

It was not immediately clear how long it could take for the results to be returned. However, it is understood that the analysis could be completed in as little as 24 hours.

“The test was sent on Monday of this week and CARPHA has received those tests, and we hope to report to you shortly,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George told reporters on Tuesday, after local health officials accepted over $1 million in equipment from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is very vital information. As you know, there are several new strains around. We believe that these strains have a greater ability to infect an individual. Scientists tell us that they have a greater ability to infect but the disease may not be as severe, so we are still very hopeful. This is a priority to the Ministry of Health and once we get that information we will share it with you,” the CMO said.

This comes at least two months after it was made public that some countries including Barbados’ main source market, the UK, reported that they have discovered several more infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus. Since then, the US, Brazil, Jamaica and several other countries have reported cases of a new variant.

The mutation of the virus was said to have been started since September last year, and health experts have indicated that it was more infectious, being at least 70 per cent more transmittable.

Acknowledging that there has been a delay in Barbados carrying out tests to find out if any of the new variants had made its way on the island, Dr George suggested that a part of the delay was the requirement for paperwork to accompany the samples.

Officials indicated at the start of this month that they would be carrying out tests to determine if any new strain of the COVID-19 was on the island.

“When CARPHA made the approach formally again to the Ministry of Health one week ago, we acted immediately. There were some documentation that was required and some paperwork that was required to go with the samples, and the ten samples have been sent. Those are all positive cases,” said George. (MM)

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