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St. Vincent and the Grenadines recorded, between July 19 and Aug. 9, five cases of the Mu variant, the fifth variant of the COVID-19 virus that the Worth Health Organization (WHO) has labelled a “variant of interest” (VOI).

“On review of sequencing results for samples sent from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the COVID-19 IMPACT Project Lab through the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), five (5) cases of the Mu variant were detected between July 19th, 2021, and August 9th, 2021,” the Ministry of Health said in a press statement Tuesday night.

“All cases were detected within the community as contacts of other positive cases and from persons seeking healthcare,” the statement said.

The ministry said that the WHO, on Aug. 30, named the variant B.1.621 — Mu — a variant of interest.

A VOI is one that has genetic differences to the other known variants and is causing infections in multiple countries, and therefore might present a particular threat to public health.

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“A VOI is not a variant of concern (VOC), which is a variant that has been proven to be either more transmissible, cause severe disease or is able to escape the immune response making it more dangerous and so more consequential,” the health ministry explained.

It noted that Mu is the fifth “variant of interest” to be monitored by WHO since March 2020.

“The WHO weekly COVID-19 bulletin states that this variant of interest ‘has a constellation of mutations’ that may make it less susceptible to vaccines and immunity from natural infections. Research and further monitoring will be done to better understand the characteristics of this variant of interest,” the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, four new COVID-19 cases were reported from 36 samples processed on Monday, resulting in a positivity rate of 11.1%.

Five new recoveries were noted over the reporting period.

There are 65 cases currently active and 12 people with COVID-19 have died in SVG.

Since March 2020, the country has recorded 2,389 cases of COVID-19 and 2,312 of those have recovered from the illness.

“In view of the confirmed presence of the Mu variant of interest in the community and the increased risk of infection and subsequent transmission of COVID-19 posed by the growing incidence of variants of concern in persons entering St. Vincent and the Grenadines, strict compliance with all protocols and recommendations is strongly recommended. These include the effective use of masks, physical distancing, hand sanitising and immunisation with available vaccines,” the ministry said.