Delta variant spread: Health authorities undecided 

  • Cite insufficient sequencing runs and data as inconclusive 
  • Ministry notes need for more sequencing on random PCR tests   
  • More labs with sequencing capacity under development  
  • Jayewardenepura Uni confirms Delta in 68 samples  

BY Aazam Ameen 

The health authorities are unable to confirm as to whether the spread of the virulent Indian B.1.617.2 Delta variant of Covid-19 is under control in Sri Lanka or not. This is despite the recent revelations highlighting that 20-30% of the Covid-19 infections in the Colombo District have been caused by the same strain, and that the said variant has now spread to all districts across the country. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Health Ministry Communications Director and Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath said that even though the Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit conducted gene sequencing on samples of PCR tests, more sequencing runs have to be conducted in order to draw any conclusions with regard to the nature of the spread. 

“It is possible that within the Colombo area, 20-30% of the Covid-19 cases may be infected with the Delta variant. The basis for this is the data that has emerged from the lab at the Sri Jayewardenepura University,” he explained. 

Commenting further, Dr. Herath reiterated that in order to fully understand whether the spread of the variant in question is increasing or decreasing, more sequencing runs of random samples need to be conducted.  

“At the moment, only 10-15 samples undergo the sequencing process at a time. It is not practical to do the same for every sample that is obtained,” he noted. 

When queried as to whether the laboratory at the university is the only one that is currently conducting such sequencing runs, Dr. Herath confirmed that this is the current status quo, even though a few other laboratories are currently under development for this purpose. 

Meanwhile, Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara told The Sunday Morning that the presence of the Delta variant has been detected in 68 samples.  

However, he emphasised that based on these numbers alone, he is unable to comment on any percentage or rate of infection. 

In terms of the national vaccination statistics, data from the Vaccination Dashboard of the Presidential Secretariat shows that 11,768,810 people have been vaccinated as of yesterday (31 July) and that of them, 2,136,277 have received both doses while 9,632,533 have received only a single dose.