Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee has said the COVID-19 UK variant has been detected in a “large number” of Cayman’s coronavirus cases.

Lee, in a brief emailed response to Cayman Compass queries on the variant, said the Health Services Authority has been performing tests on local positive coronavirus cases to detect the strain.

“The HSA is able to perform a surrogate test for the COVID-19 UK variant… which has shown there are a large number of positives in Cayman who have this,” he said.

A total number of the UK variant cases was not provided.

The ‘S gene dropout’ is frequently found on the HSA’s multiplex PCR tests in returning travellers from all destinations; this is evidence of fairly widespread penetration of variants, Lee explained.

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Lee, in a previous statement to the Compass, said that Cayman does not currently have the capacity to routinely provide genomic sequencing for SARS-CoV-2 samples, which is used to detect variants of the virus.

However, some samples have been sent to CARPHA for this testing.

The CMO said that CARPHA has provided two sets of genomic sequencing results; the last set of four samples, at the end of April, confirmed four positive results for SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

But, Lee said, only one met CARPHA’s criteria for genomic sequencing and “this did not reveal any Variants of Concern”.

Cayman’s overall coronavirus cases, as of Thursday, stood at 561, of which 546 have been listed as fully recovered.

Lee reported one new positive COVID-19 case on Thursday out of 235 tests.

At present there are 13 active cases, all of which are asymptomatic.

Updated results are expected later on Friday.

As for vaccinations, Lee reported that a total of 73,258 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the Cayman Islands.

Of these, 39,493, or 61% of the estimated population, have had at least one dose of the  vaccine and 52% have completed the two-dose course.

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