The Cayman Islands has started genome sequencing of local COVID-19 cases making the territory the first in the region, outside of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), to do so.
This was revealed by Governor Martyn Roper who said that this puts the British overseas territory in a different league, as no one else in the Caribbean is doing it.
“Other territories and countries are sending their samples to CARPHA, the regional body. But we’re able to do this on island. It’s only just come online so we weren’t able quite to say this has been working and it’s been working well. But we got ourselves into the right place,” said Roper who was speaking on a local talk show earlier this week.
According to the governor, the sequencing is a “major step” and this was communicated with the United Kingdom as the government lobbied to be moved from amber to green on the British travel list.
However, on Thursday, the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps did not make changes to the green list, leaving Cayman on amber.
This means people travelling from the Cayman Islands to the UK must take a COVID-19 test, book and pay for day two and day eight COVID-19 travel tests – to be taken after arrival – and quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days.
There remains the option to pay for the ‘test to release’ scheme after five days.
Among the stated criteria for inclusion on the green list are vaccination rates, infection rates, access to genome sequencing and reliable local scientific data.
Roper said the UK is very concerned about the spread of COVID variants, in particular the Delta variant from India, and so, too, is Cayman.
He said genome sequencing identifies the variants of concern and is key in the COVID-19 fight.
“When we test people for being positive or negative using the PCR tests, this is a different type of test which enables you to break down the positive cases and it will tell you whether it’s the Indian or Delta variant. It will tell you whether it’s the Kent UK variant, which is Alpha, and that’s really important because then, in terms of your COVID response, you know which variant you’ve got because some variants are more infectious than others,” the governor said.
He said with genome sequencing local health officials can get a lot more information to be able to deal with COVID-19.
“Being able to do genome sequencing on island is a major step forward and we are effectively a regional health leader in this area,” he said.
The Delta variant, which originated in India, has also been found in 62 countries and the cases in the UK are rising.