13 March 2021 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MISREPORTING OF NEW COVID VARIANT VUI-202103/01 (lineage B.1.324.1)
The British High Commission in St John’s is concerned about inaccurate media reporting following the announcement by Public Health England (PHE) that two people in South East England who had recently returned from Antigua and Barbuda had tested positive for a new variant of COVID-19. PHE’s statement can be found
here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/confirmed-cases-of-covid-19-variants-identified in-uk
The British High Commission should like to confirm there is no scientific evidence to determine where this variant first emerged. Giving variants a country’s name is inaccurate, unhelpful, and can generate prejudices and misunderstanding.
All viruses mutate over time and, since the start of the pandemic, many thousands of variants have been identified in the UK and across the world. The majority of variants emerge and subsequently become extinct as they stop being passed on. This is assisted by testing, contact tracing and isolation.
We regret any misunderstanding that may have arisen over this matter. The UK government will continue to work closely with Antigua and Barbuda health officials in our common goal to overcome the ongoing threat to lives and livelihoods posed by this virus. PHE would additionally be happy to support the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and offer to sequence any samples transferred to the UK to support control of COVID transmission in the country.