Suspected cases of Omicron variant are monitored but experts say they are ‘not cause for concern’
Ecuador’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that it is monitoring five cases it believes to be the the BA.2 Omicron subvariant. The Ministry says the patients, all from the Guayaquil, are being checked daily but exhibit only mild symptoms and are not hospitalized.
A Ministry spokesperson said that testing is underway to confirm BA.2 but results may not be available for several days. She said that preliminary tests at the Holy Spirit University Research Center indicated the cases to be BA.2.
“We believe the variant has been circulating in Ecuador for several weeks but have not made any firm confirmations,” said Maria Parra. “Based on information from Europe and North America, we know that it is slightly more contagious than original Omicron but causes milder cases. We do not consider this a major cause of concern and do not believe it will change the downward trend of cases in Ecuador.”
Jorge Miller, former Guayaquil Health Ministry zonal director, warned against “excessive alarm” about the announcement. “We have known since early February that BA.2 was probably among our Omicron cases but saw little need to test for it,” he said. “Testing is slow, tedious process and our capabilities are limited compared to those of richer countries.”
In an interview on a Guayaquil radio station Wednesday, Miller said he believes Ecuador is doing very well in controlling the pandemic and may soon drop most health restrictions. “Despite our limited resources, our numbers are very good — better than countries like the United States and Britain. Our vaccination program is one of the most impressive in the Western Hemisphere and is the reason we have fared so well.”
Miller, who serves on the zonal Health Ministry advisory board, says he is not concerned about the so-called Deltacron variant that has been identified in Europe. “There are very few cases and researchers are still studying to see if it is a legitimate variant, combining genetic information from Delta and Omicron. If it is a distinct variant, it produces very mild cases and is not very transmissible. At this time, at least, it is not something to worry about.”
Miller also said he does not believe a fourth vaccination is needed for the general population. “Pfizer recently said it is preparing a fourth dose and I believe Moderna is too but no scientists that I’m aware of says this is necessary except in cases of extreme comorbidities. Drug companies, obviously, are in the business to make money by selling more drugs and public health agencies should be aware of this motive.”