The more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has led to a new high of active COVID-19 cases in the Sister Islands.
Following a daily record of 33 new cases on Friday, Public Health announced a further 25 new positives on Monday. This has brought the number of active cases to 101, exceeding the previous high of 86 on 5 Nov. 2021, during the first COVID wave.
To date, there have been 237 total cases recorded in the Sister Islands, of which 136 have recovered.
Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr. Autilia Newton reported 608 new cases of COVID-19 for all of the Cayman Islands on Monday. The vast majority, 586, were among members of the community and 22 came from travellers.
Despite the third highest daily reported new cases since the start of the pandemic, the number of active cases dropped from 3,470 to 3,430 with 3,166 of those linked to community transmission.
Public Health estimates that 4.82% of Cayman’s population is currently testing positive for COVID-19. The total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic has climbed to 11,226.
However, the number of hospitalisations for COVID-19 remained low at seven patients, compared to four on Friday.
The Omicron variant is suspected to have replaced Delta in Cayman and become the dominant strain. While 128 cases of Omicron have been confirmed using genomic sequencing, the number of additional probable Omicron cases reached 1,487 since they were first reported on 17 Dec.
This is 453 more than on Friday. Of the 608 new cases, 264 resulted from lateral flow tests, also known as rapid antigen tests. The majority, 344, was detected in 1,522 PCR tests.
The share of positive PCR tests, which is an indicator of the level of community transmission, remained high at 22.6% over the weekend, following 23% for all of last week.
In other countries, Omicron has equally led to record highs of active cases but reports of severe illness and hospitalisations have remained lower than during previous COVID waves.
The only exception is the United States, which on Monday saw a new peak of more than 132,000 Americans hospitalised with COVID-19. All but seven US states have set records for daily reported new COVID cases in 2022.
It is not clear how many of the US patients have to attend hospital because of COVID-19 and how many happened to test positive after having been admitted.
Data from the UK suggests that approximately one third of hospitalisations with COVID are incidental, meaning that patients test positive but are treated for something else.
This mirrors similar findings from South Africa, where the number of COVID hospital patients increased in December in part because of the prevalence of the Omicron variant among the population and not necessarily because of the severity of COVID complications.
Health officials in the US have warned that although potentially less severe, the sheer number of infections caused by Omicron could still put a strain on hospital systems.
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