The number of active Covid-19 cases in the Virgin Islands rose yesterday to 1,387, marking the second-largest surge since the pandemic started, according to numbers released by government.
Numbers have been steadily increasing since the start of December, health officials said during an emergency update on Friday night.
During the announcement, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said group gatherings would be limited to 100 people and one person every nine square feet inside buildings.
“We had 40 active cases on December 1,” Mr. Malone said. “Because of the latest spike, we again have a particular area in which our teams throughout the country are coming to grips with a number of measures that have been looked at so that again we can balance lives and livelihoods.”
Mr. Malone added that the Cabinet planned to meet again on Tuesday of this week and make a decision regarding a night-time curfew or other precautionary measures in an at- tempt to curb the virus. No such decision had been announced as of Beacon press time yesterday afternoon, however.
Health officials also confirmed on Friday that the omicron variant is part of the cause of the recent spike.
“We now confirm that 12 of the 25 samples that were tested have been returned with the omicron virus,” Mr. Malone added. “We suspected omicron was here. We have official verification that it is in our midst.”
Though omicron has been widely reported as milder than the delta variant, 16 people were hospitalised as of Monday, according to the government’s Monday update.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges said on Friday that people recently hospitalised are generally being discharged sooner than during the last major surge of cases in July.
He added that there was no one in the Intensive Care Unit, and fewer people have needed oxygen.
“Based on that picture, a milder profile, a much quicker increase,” he said of the current surge. “It was obvious we were dealing with something different.”
He added that omicron “outcompetes” other variants to become the dominant variant.
“By now, given the numbers and the rapid increase, we can safely guestimate that omicron is the dominant variant in the [VI],” he said.
The territory should expect a continued increase in cases since the variant can double in numbers in just two or three days, Dr. Georges added on Friday.
More people will be asymptomatic, and those who are infected may suffer from runny nose, itchy throats, and other symptoms, he said.
“Even though it’s mild, the sheer number of cases that are created can lead to significant hospitalisations,” he warned. Ensuring that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed is a priority for the BVI Health Services Authority, he noted.
Paediatric admissions — particularly for ages 5 and under — have increased across the world, he said.
Of the 1,387 cases reported yesterday, 730 were local cases and 533 were found through contact tracing, government stated.
Seventy-four cases were found through “day zero” entry screening; four were found through “day seven” entry screening; and 46 were found through travel screening.
As of yesterday, there were 1,094 cases on Tortola, 232 on Virgin Gorda, 57 in Anegada, and four on Jost Van Dyke.
The BVIHSA announced on Friday that it would host a vaccination drive over the weekend.
“As part of the aggressive response to the Covid-19 case spike in the territory, the BVIHSA is maximising its inoculation campaign by organising a special weekend vaccination clinic that offers first, second and third (booster) doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines,” the agency announced in a statement.
The drive was held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital lobby.
Clinics in Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke are also offering doses, as is St. William’s Catholic Church in Road Town.
“It should be noted as well that senior citizens, immunocompromised persons, and children ages 12-17 can receive the boosters that are given three months after the last dose of one dose or two doses of the Covid- 19 vaccine regimen,” the BVIHSA stated.
As of yesterday, 17,119 people had been fully vaccinated in the VI, representing about 55 percent of the total population, the Monday update stated.
Government hopes to vaccinate 22,500 people — around 75 percent of the population.
Dr. Georges said Friday that the government is working with the private sector to offer vaccines in businesses.
He added the government is also working on offering drive-up vaccinations for the A