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Covid-19 variants: Continued surveillance necessary: Experts

  • A.30 Covid variant may be extinct?

By Aazam Ameen

The A.30 Covid-19 variant, which prompted local health authorities to be on alert, may be going extinct, The Sunday Morning learnt.

According to Sri Jayewardenepura University Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, evidence of the variant spreading globally has not been seen for some time now. 

However, continued surveillance for the A.30 variant is needed to prevent it from entering the country, he added.

“A.30 is not spreading on a global level as per available data. It’s almost extinct,” Dr. Jeewandara tweeted.

He also mentioned that out of more than 4.5 genomes deposited on the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), which employs tools to assign phylogenetic clades and lineages to genetic sequences of the Covid-19 virus, only five belong to the A.30 lineage.

Of these five, three samples were detected in Angola, one in Sweden, and another in the UK. The last of these samples were reportedly collected during May and June this year. 

However, Dr. Jeewandara opined that the variant does seem to have an “impressive” collection of mutations which are capable of true immune escape, and underscored that it may go undetected in some locations where testing capacities are limited. Due to this possibility, he also expressed that continuous surveillance is required.

Sri Lanka was first alerted of the A.30 variant through a study published in the British weekly scientific journal Nature, which was conducted by a group of German researchers.

Responding to this last week, State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana urged the public to adhere to health guidelines properly to prevent the spread of the virus.

Public Health Inspectors’ (PHIs) Union of Sri Lanka Chairman Upul Rohana voiced his concerns regarding A.30 and its possible impact if allowed to enter Sri Lanka.

“Several variants detected abroad in the past were detected in Sri Lanka as well. With the people of Sri Lanka disregarding pandemic health guidelines, if A.30 were to enter Sri Lanka, a catastrophe will arise,” he said in a statement last week.

Meanwhile, the issue of congestion around the rapid PCR test counters at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake was now under control, according to Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Director of Operations Shehan Sumanasekara.

On 30 October, a passenger at BIA circulated a video on social media which showed an uproar at the airport’s rapid PCR test counters, raising concerns about the Covid border control mechanisms at the main airport.

According to Sumanasekara, this was due to a lack of staff at the cashier’s booth in the lab facility. “Normally, we handle 500-600 passengers per day; however, on that specific date, we handled more than 800-900 passengers, which was well above our daily capacity. We were not ready to handle this number since the lab facility had only two cashiers,” he said.