News

Delta variant of Covid-19: Hunt continues for community spread 

  • Tests underway to ascertain ‘considerable’ national spread 
  • Jayewardenepura Uni conducts gene sequencing 
  • Keeping/adding records of new variant infections doesn’t provide accurate pic: Dr. Herath 
  • 43 confirmed Delta cases so far from Colombo, Jaffna, Kilinochchi 
  • Authorities warn of strict travel restrictions if Covid-19/Delta cases increase 

BY YOSHITHA PERERA 

Health authorities are conducting tests to obtain information as to whether the B.1.617.2 Delta variant of Covid-19 has spread across the country which would mean that it is spreading within the community, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Health Ministry Communications Director Dr. Hemantha Herath said that according to the current detection process, the health authorities are conducting tests through highly selective and suspicious samples in order to identify the extent to which the Delta variant and other new variants are present in the country.  

“If the health authorities find that a new variant has spread around the country, then the people have to be more cautious since it is in the community.” 

Dr. Herath added that the Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit is conducting gene sequencing tests through certain samples to identify the percentage of the existence of the Delta variant in the country.  

He, however, emphasised: “It is not possible to detect each and every variant in the country. Therefore, we want to know to what extent the new variants have spread in the country.” 

He explained that keeping records of persons infected with the new variant is useless, since the health authorities detect new variants through the samples. “Adding samples is not going to give an accurate picture of how many persons have been detected with the new variant,” he claimed.          

However, according to the health records released during the course of last week, it was revealed that a total number of 43 patients have been infected with the Delta variant. 

Dr. Herath elaborated that according to the samples, the virus has been detected in Colombo and its suburbs, while it was recorded that the new Delta variant is also in areas in the Jaffna and Kilinochchi Districts. 

“What is required now is to prevent the spread of the virus within the community.” 

He said that since the Delta variant was first detected, the Sri Jayewardenepura University had commenced the process of detecting the variant in the country. “For detection, we are using gene sequencing which was available at the Sri Jayewardenepura University. We send the samples once in a while to the University and they continue to perform gene sequencing which is both a time consuming and expensive process.” 

Dr. Herath also noted that if the total number of cases are increasing, the health authorities and the Government would definitely have to impose travel restrictions.  

He also observed that so far, there has been no detection of the emerging new Covid-19 variant named “Lambda” in the country. 

Meanwhile, speaking to The Sunday Morning, the Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara said that the highly transmissible Delta variant was first detected in Sri Lanka from five community samples obtained from the Dematagoda area in Colombo. 

According to last week’s records, the figure has increased to 43.  

On Thursday (15), the Unit confirmed that 19 patients were infected with the new Delta variant. On 13 July, it was officially reported that there were another 24 patients infected.  

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Colombo Regional Epidemiologist Dr. Dinuka Guruge said that according to the final report released by the Unit, they have identified 11 cases infected with the variant within the Colombo City area.

She added: “There are two methods called variant PCR testing and gene sequencing and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) health authorities revealed the spread of the new Delta variant earlier by conducting variant PCR tests. This was before we received the sequencing report from the Sri Jayewardenepura University.” 

Dr. Guruge explained that since the initial detection, the CMC had taken all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, adding that in this regard, they had completed the contact tracing process, PCR testing on the contacts, and the quarantining of the close contacts.