News

Booster-less 60+ vulnerable due to gatherings 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has warned that if the population above 60 years of age has not obtained the “booster” third Covid-19 vaccine dose in a backdrop where people are gathering in large numbers at present, it may lead to a disastrous situation in the future.

Joining a programme hosted on TV Derana yesterday (30 November), SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratne said: “A festive season is coming in the near future. At present, many people seem to have forgotten the pandemic situation and there are large gatherings. In this backdrop, if those above 60 years of age have not received the booster Covid-19 vaccine dose, it may result in a disastrous situation.”

Meanwhile, Medical Research Institute (MRI) Consultant Virologist Dr. Nadeeka Janage, who joined the same programme, said that random bio samples are being tested by the MRI and the University of Colombo since July 2021 in order to identify new variants. He also said that the relevant reports are being sent to the Health Ministry and the Epidemiology Unit on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, when questioned whether there is a possibility of a new Covid-19 variant developing in Sri Lanka, he said: “According to the tests that have been done so far, there has not been an emergence of such a variant that can have a major impact on health.”

Furthermore, the Health Ministry has stated that even if the Omicron Covid-19 variant (B.1.1.529) enters the country, its spread can be minimised if the people follow the Covid-19-related health guidelines properly.

Speaking at a media briefing held yesterday, Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath said: “No matter what variant enters the country, it will only spread if the people don’t follow the health guidelines. Therefore, if everyone follows the health guidelines, the spread of this variant can be minimised. Even if it spreads, the adverse consequences of it can be minimised by adhering to the health guidelines.”

He further stated that since a large number of people from South African countries do not come to Sri Lanka, it is less likely that this variant will enter the country.

In view of the Omicron variant, the Sri Lankan authorities have 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 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, last Sunday (28 November), said: “A final decision has not been reached regarding the imposition of such a ban. However, the matter is constantly being analysed.”