Covid-19 ‘UK variant’ in Sri Lanka? | Sunday Observer

Covid-19 ‘UK variant’ in Sri Lanka?

17 January, 2021

As the Government grapples with the constraints posed by Covid-19, the health authorities have now identified another hurdle: a more contagious form of the virus.

“A person who arrived from the UK was found carrying the new Covid-19 variant that is rapidly spreading in the UK,” Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media on Wednesday. This followed after a team of scientists at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura confirmed the detection of the new variant. It was later found that the new variant dubbed the ‘UK variant’ was detected during tests on a visiting cricketer. English cricketer Moeen Ali tested positive for the new strain when he was subject to test in Sri Lanka.

Health Services Deputy Director General Hemantha Herath said Ali tested positive on January 4. His team is touring here for a Two Test Series.

However, Dr. Samaraweera said the UK variant did not pose an immediate threat to the country. He said that the vaccines that are being developed can withstand the new variant which, according to foreign media, has spread to over 50 other countries.

A virologist attached to the Department of Virology, Medical Research Institute said that there was no reason to panic. “If you follow the health guidelines issued by the Government, there is no need to be scared. It is like changing a frock. There will be other mutations,” she said.

Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said that steps are being taken to prevent the spread of the new variant. The health authorities are paying close attention to the situation. According to findings, the new variant is much more contagious than the earlier versions detected in Sri Lanka. It has undergone mutations to spike protein that makes it easier to catch, and help the virus to infect cells and start spreading better than it did before. Foreign media shows that the UK variant was detected in September last year. In the wake of new coronavirus variants, Japan included Sri Lanka in its latest travel restrictions. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that border control measures were tightened in response to the emerging new mutations of the virus. “To protect people’s lives and livelihoods and to remove potential risks, I have decided to suspend the entry of foreign business travelers,” Suga said.

The countries and regions with business travel agreements affected by the latest restrictions are Cambodia, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, Japanese media said. These entry restrictions will remain in place until February. 7.

Sri Lanka recorded nearly 50,900 confirmed cases by Friday, while nearly 250 have died of the virus.

State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof Channa Jayasumana told the media that India has agreed to donate a consignment of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of January.

State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said Sri Lanka is planning to roll out the vaccine by mid-February. “Covax will provide 20 percent and the balance requirement would be purchased by the Government which is negotiating with Indian Government on purchasing Astrazeneca,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, adding that the vaccination process will commence in mid-February.

The World Health Organization will provide vaccines to cover 20 percent of the population.