BELMOPAN, Thurs. Dec. 30, 2021– A recent press release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) warns the public that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is most likely already in Belize. The release came shortly after reports of spikes in the number of new COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Belize, Stann Creek and Orange Walk Districts. While genome tests have yet to officially confirm the presence of the Omicron variant in the country, clinical changes in the pattern of these cases, particularly the symptoms being exhibited by infected persons, strongly suggest that it is here.
The symptoms being observed in recent COVID-19 cases seem to be primarily surfacing in the upper respiratory system and include runny nose, nasal congestion, and sore throat alongside mild fever and muscle aches. Several studies have shown that the Omicron variant is less likely to infect and damage the lower respiratory system, which includes the lungs.
The Health Ministry went on to point out that, despite the symptoms of the Omicron variant being mild compared to the Delta variant, a large increase in cases could still be detrimental to our healthcare system. In fact, the new variant has been found to be highly transmissible. According to the ministry, the sudden rise in cases increased the country’s positivity rate from 2.5 to 16 in just a short period of time.
The press release goes on to state that “the ministry urges the public to continue to follow strict public health and social measures by wearing a properly fitted face mask at all times in public, washing and sanitizing hands regularly, maintaining proper physical distance, and avoiding crowds and enclosed areas.” It also reminds the public that large gatherings are still prohibited and that all bars and nightclubs remain closed.
Reports continue to show that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe clinical symptoms. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Israel, persons can receive booster shots three months after the second dose of two-dose vaccines like Pfizer and AstraZeneca (while they must wait for a period of 5 months in the US) and two months after single-dose vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson jab. More information on the vaccines and eligibility for booster shots in Belize can be obtained from Ministry of Health and Wellness staff at any of the vaccination sites located across the country.