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Impractical to sequence all arrivals for Omicron

a year ago

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  • Health Ministry cites difficulties in sending bio samples from airport to labs 
  • Sajith wants booster dose accelerated
BY Buddhika Samaraweera The Health Ministry has stated that it is not possible to detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus two (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant through the tests carried out at the airport, as it is not practical to send the biological samples of all those who arrive in Sri Lanka daily from foreign countries for gene sequencing. Addressing a media briefing yesterday (29), Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath said: “If it is needed to detect a certain Covid-19 variant at the airport, samples of all who arrive in the country should be sent for gene sequencing, but it is not something that is practical.”  He was responding to a query by the media regarding allegations made by various parties that people coming to Sri Lanka from foreign countries are not properly subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in view of the advent of the virulent Omicron variant. Dr. Herath also said that in the current situation, it should therefore be ensured that persons arriving in Sri Lanka from foreign countries have undergone PCR tests before leaving the country where they are coming from, and that those who are not fully vaccinated, should be directed for quarantine. “We need to make sure that people coming from foreign countries have been tested before leaving those countries. In addition, it is very important to refer people other than those who have been fully vaccinated to quarantine,” he added. In view of the Omicron variant, the Sri Lankan authorities have, as of yesterday, banned the arrival of foreign travellers who have been to six countries in the African Continent, including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini (Swaziland), within the past 14 days. However, when inquired as to whether the Health Ministry was taking steps to impose a ban on travellers who have been to other countries where cases of the Omicron variant have been reported, Dr. Herath, on Sunday (28), said: “A final decision has not been reached regarding the imposition of such a ban. However, the matter is constantly being analysed.” Meanwhile, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that Sri Lanka must speed up the Covid-19 ooster vaccine in Parliament yesterday (29). “The WHO has announced that the Omicron variant is a cause of concern. I, myself, am concerned about this. I would like to suggest that the Government take immediate steps to vaccinate those above the age of 60 years with the booster dose as a matter of urgency, and also parallelly the booster dose must also be given to those below the age of 60 years and with comorbidities. This includes those with kidney diseases, diabetes, and heart conditions. This will help us prepare for another wave,” said Premadasa. Additionally, Premadasa took the opportunity to thank the Government for the effective roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine drive that is currently in place. “I want to take the opportunity to thank the Government for the effectiveness in the Covid-19 vaccine drive. Praise is due in this matter,” he added. First discovered in South Africa, the variant has now been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Australia, and Hong Kong.

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