The more contagious United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.7 is now spreading among the Jamaican population.
This revelation was made by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, at a virtual press conference on Monday, March 8.
Tufton said seven of the eight samples that were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago returned positive test results.
None of the patients had a travel history to the UK. The samples were taken from the parishes of St Catherine, St James, Clarendon, Trelawny, Kingston, and St Andrew. The minister said the samples were randomly selected in January and the results were returned on March 6.
According to Tufton, there is a possibility that the presence of the variant could be contributing to the vast increase in the number of positive cases on the island.
In December, the island had confirmed four cases of the UK variant but the ministry had said that those patients were isolated and did not pose a threat to any members of the public.
In the meantime, Tufton said that the Government is taking steps to establish its own testing facility for the new variants. He said the equipment required to achieve this should cost approximately J$60 million.
Laboratories in Florida are being eyed to help with additional testing for the variant, the minister said.