The world has now been battling the COVID-19 pandemic for two years. Over the last few months, two more highly contagious variants – namely Delta and, since November, Omicron – have emerged, resulting in a massive spike in the number of cases just when we thought we could breathe freely again.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on November 24, 2021. Two days later, the WHO designated Omicron a “Variant of Concern”, since it caused a swift increase in infections in South Africa, indicating that it might be a “highly transmissible variant”.
But, according to the WHO, this variant had more mutations than other variants and some of the mutations looked worrying.
So far in Barbados, we have had one confirmed case of Omicron. Still, the mere fact that we have been recording around 500 positive tests every day for the past week, likely means there may be more among us, as most countries recording Omicron cases have seen a sharp rise in the number of infected persons within a short space of time.
Naturally, there are children among this significant increase in positive COVID-19 cases, leaving Director of Medical Services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Dr Clyde Cave, a pediatrician, very concerned.
He stated in another section of the media: “Since Barbados has not made the vaccine available to children under the age of 11, it poses a severe risk to children with underlying conditions and increases the odds of their contracting Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C).”
He said “scores” of children had tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks but, on a positive note, not many of them so far have ended up hospitalised. However, Dr Cave said this could change as the numbers continued to increase, and may also be exacerbated by the fact that Barbados has not yet made the vaccines available to children under the age of 12.
While he could not state precisely how many children have been affected in Barbados, he said presently, the vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11 was in short supply worldwide and was costlier than the adult equivalent.
With that in mind, Dr Cave said the Ministry of Education should reconsider any plans to return children to face-to-face classes, which it said it planned to do before the end of January depending on the COVID-19 situation in the country.
“Right now, we are on an exponential increase of Omicron, which was not what we were anticipating when we spoke about having our children return to the classroom a couple of months ago. So, there may have to be a recalibration of the timing of when things happen, even though the objective is for a safe return to school,” he said.
Once schools reopen, it will become important for students to maintain the protocols established by the Ministry of Education since the first cases of the pandemic were discovered here in March 2020.
Beyond that, it may be helpful for every member of your family to be vaccinated if eligible. You also want to ensure that your child is wearing a mask that fits well and has a good seal. Parents might also consider upgrading to KN95 or N95 masks.
Finally, it’s important to get yourself tested, especially if you, your child or anyone else in your family is showing signs of COVID-19.
This article appears in the January 14 edition of COVID Dispatch. Read the full publication here.