The COVID-19 Isolation Facility in Scarborough, Tobago.

The Division of Health, Wellness, and Family Development announced yesterday that the more contagious form of COVID-19, the Gamma variant, which was also known as the Brazilian variant, is in Tobago as the first official case was confirmed.

Officials there said because of this they are expecting an increase in cases and deaths.

In making the announcement yesterday, the division, Tobago Regional HealthAutority(TRHA), and County Medical Office of Health strongly urged more people in Tobago to get vaccinated to prevent more infections and deaths.

Acting County Medical Officer, Dr Tiffany Hoyte, said the new variant is causing a rise in COVID cases in Tobago.

“The Gamma variant circulating in our community is contributing to the rise in cases…Since it is more contagious than the original virus, we expect more cases, and with more cases comes more deaths.”

Only last week Tobago recorded 52 cases of COVID in a single 24-hour period. The highest one day tally since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The island has also recorded well over 30 deaths.

Dr Hoyte added, “Getting vaccinated reduces your personal risk of infection and protects against getting severe illnesses and death. Having most of our population vaccinated will decrease the rate at which the virus spreads. When combined with masks, social distancing, and handwashing it is the best protection we have, and it works.”

Health officials have said the Gamma variant is responsible for a surge in COVID cases and deaths among the unvaccinated.

“The Delta variant is responsible for all major spread and most unvaccinated deaths in the United Kingdom, United States, and other countries. We now have 4.16 million COVID-19 deaths globally and more than 194 million cases.”

The TRHA also urged Tobagonians to be more vigilant, wear masks, stay at least 6-feet apart from others and wash hands regularly with soap and water to prevent further COVID mutations.

Meanwhile, Dr Hoyte also appealed to COVID- positive patients in home isolation to be responsible and stay at home.

“Our home isolation and monitoring programme is working. However, there remains a certain level of personal responsibility with COVID-19 positive persons and their households, as well as the general public.”