UK/Alpha Variant Confirmed in February 2021 COVID-19 Outbreak on Montserrat

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has confirmed that the variant which was in circulation during the last local COVID-19 outbreak in February 2021 was the UK variant; now known as the Alpha variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus.
This revelation came today (June 16, 2021) from the Ministry of Health and Social Services as they received the results of COVID- 19 samples sent to CARPHA for genomic sequencing in February of this year.
The Alpha variant began circulating in the United Kingdom in September 2020 and in the following months was linked to an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across several countries. This prompted concerns that the variant would cause an increase in deaths and derail vaccination efforts.
Since then, the variant has been found to be more transmissible but not deadlier than the original SARS- Cov2 virus. Additionally, vaccines have proven effective against the Alpha strain.
Officials from the Ministry of Health indicated that ongoing research has shown that in the UK, the AstraZeneca vaccine spurred an 86% reduction in hospitalization from the Alpha variant, with no deaths reported. Given this new report and the continued evidence of the vaccine’s benefit the Ministry has indicated that it remains confident in the island’s vaccination programme.
Eligible residents who have not yet been vaccinated are encouraged to do so by contacting the Health Centre of their choice. Residents are also encouraged to send any questions or concerns about vaccination to where they will be answered by a health professional.
Additionally, all are encouraged to continue to practice the public health measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 infections. This includes frequent and thorough handwashing, cough etiquette, wearing of face coverings in public spaces and social distancing.