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Ministry of Health Identifies New COVID-19 Variant

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has detected a new COVID-19 variant in the country. The official announcement was made late this afternoon at a press conference led by government leaders including Prime Minister John Briceno. Health Minister, Michel Chebat explained today that the variant was detected after tests were ran Friday. According to the Minister, Belize does not have the technology to identify the type of variant and so the samples were sent to Baylor University in Texas, USA to conduct gene sequencing.

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The Ministry of Health and Wellness is concerned by the rapid increase in positive cases we have been recording since the 21st of June. We continue to witness a wanton disregard for the public health measures that have been implemented. We see videos of massive wakes and funerals taking place, bars which hide under the disguise of selling food turning into nightclubs, over crowded public transportation and places of worship filled to capacity without adherence to public health measures. Furthermore based on analysis done by the Central Medical Lab commencing on Friday last week we’re able to say that a variant of the COVID virus has now been detected in Belize. Two sets of samples were ran, twenty out of a set of thirty five detected a variant of concern and twenty two out of forty seven in the second sample ran detected a variant of concern. At this time we do not know exactly which variant it is. Our samples have been sent to Baylor College for gene sequencing to assist us in identifying the variant. We hope to have that information shortly.”

Minister Chebat added that the medical professionals who advise the ministry are of the belief that the new strain in Belize is the Delta variant. The Delta variant is considered to be the most contagious detected so far.

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Every time we have a new case identified as positive contact tracing begins immediately and so I can assure you that that has been ongoing. In terms of where the variants were detected the local experts believe that it could be the Delta strain but it is only a belief as I said before the swabs have been sent to Baylor University and once they’re able to concern then we’ll be able to come back to the Belizean public and confirm the variant that has been detected. It has been detected in several parts of the country one person was detected from Ladyville, we detected it in the south in the Stann Creek district and also in the Orange Walk district. We have had the experience over the past few months dealing with this virus since we came into government and our health systems, our hospitals,  are prepared we are ready to combat whichever variant we are experiencing right now. Clearly the solution is getting vaccinated. We cannot overemphasize how important that is. The AstraZeneca vaccine we currently have in country is effective for this variant if that is in fact the variant we have and so I want to again reiterate and encourage everyone who has not yet gotten vaccinated to please go out and get vaccinated at your earliest.”