A strain of coronavirus (B.1.621) responsible for recent increases in hospitalizations in the State of Florida is being labeled the “Colombia variant,” given its alleged origins in the South American county.
The variant, which according to news sources is responsible for 10% of new COVID-19 cases, comes a week after the first case of the Delta variant was confirmed in a patient who had arrived in Colombia from the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the B.1.62 as a strain that requires “further monitoring,” but so far, escapes a Greek nomenclature. The U.K variant opens the Greek alphabet as Alpha, followed by Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil) and Delta (India).
The Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of all U.S COVID-19 cases, and is highly contagious among the both fully vaccinated and vaccine naysayers.
In an interview with Local 10 News Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System, believes that the rapid spread of the variant in South Florida is “shocking” given that Miami is an important gateway to North America for South Americans. Colombians have been flocking stateside since early May to receive Pfizer, Moderna or single-dose Janssen vaccines after many states, among them Florida, announced free “no questions asked” jabs for non-U.S residents at walk-in pharmacies or vaccination centers. New York State rolled out a comprehensive vaccination campaign for tourists visiting many of New York City’s most famous landmarks, including Central Park, Grand Central Station and Times Square.
Since confirmation that the Colombia variant is circulating stateside, 26 countries have also reported cases, among them Spain, Mexico, Netherlands and United Kingdom. Public Health England has noted that despite 16 cases of B.1.621, “there is currently no evidence to indicate that the variant causes more severe disease or evades the efficacy of vaccines.” The government agency also claims there is no sign that the Colombia variant is spreading among communities given that all cases appear to be the result of international travel.
Colombia suspended direct air travel with the U.K in September 2020 to prevent importation of the Alpha variant. Delta accounts for up to 99% of all new infections in the U.K.
Headlines that a homegrown variant has been detected outside the nation’s borders accompanies decreasing daily numbers of new infections and deaths. On Thursday, Colombia’s Ministry of Health reported 9,690 additional infections and 325 victims of the virus. The country’s death toll reached 120,126 this week after 18 months of the pandemic and Thursday’s 325 deaths are among the lowest single day fatalities since the same number was confirmed on April 10.
Colombia ranks ninth on the Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tally with 4.7 million cases and surpassed only in the region by Argentina with 4.9 million and Brazil with almost 20 million.