It was the talk of Belize today: a variant of COVID has been detected. The sample is at a facility overseas to determine just which variant it is. At this time, however, the suspicion is that it is the Delta variant , but we will only know for sure once the results are back. So what exactly does this mean? A variant spreads quickly and those who are infected are likely to experience more serious effects, reducing the effectiveness of the vaccine and treatment. Minister Michel Chebat tells us more.

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health & Wellness

“Based on analysis done by the Central Medical Lab commencing on Friday last week, we are 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 sample has been sent to Baylor College for gene sequencing to assist us in identifying the variant. We hope to have that information shortly. In terms of where the variant was detected 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 College and once they are able to confirm then we will be able to come back to the Belizean public and confirm the variant that has been detected. It was detected in several parts of the country; one person was detected in Ladyville; we have detected it in the south in the Stann Creek District and also in the Orange Walk District.”

Minister of Health Says Belize Ready for Variant

And with variants being highly transmissible they can hit under-resourced and understaffed health systems very hard. And if the Delta is in Belize, it can mean a lot of pressure for Belize’s health sector. We put that to the Minister of Health, but he claims they are ready.

Andrea Polanco

“If it is Delta or whichever variant we have here, are we prepared? Is our health system prepared? Because it is highly transmissible – it means that it will be moving from person to person; it means we will have more people being sick and it will overwhelm our already fragile health system?”

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health & Wellness

“Again we have had the experience over the past few months dealing with this virus since we came into government; 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 it is. The AstraZeneca we have in-country is effective for this variant if that is the variant we have.”

Channel 5