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St. Vincent and the Grenadines is testing samples to try to determine if any of its COVID-19 patients are infected with the more aggressive variant strain recently detected in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache told a virtual press conference that her ministry had submitted, two weeks earlier, some samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for analysis.

“… there is a project which allows for the typing of the coronavirus to see if we had that variant that everybody is speaking about now, the variant that is much more easily passed on to persons,” Keizer-Beache said.

“And yesterday (Tuesday) we got the result that the samples we sent did not test positive for that new variant. However, we are going to send some more samples to continue testing for that variant because we are extremely suspicious about the recent developments here,” she said.

“We went from a relatively steady pace in terms of the number of cases between the period of the 10th of December to the 17th of December and even before that, we noted that more of our imported cases were coming from the United Kingdom and then we had the major spike following the 17th of December.”

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Keizer-Beache was speaking at a time when there were 16 local cases of COVID-19, the origins of which health officials were trying to determine.

By Wednesday, that figure had risen to 28.