Distancing now two metres with UK strain in SL

  • Authorities testing for other variants

  • No sign of Indian variant yet

  • All should behave as if virus is airborne: Experts  


With the detection of the highly transmissible and virulent UK Covid-19 strain in Sri Lanka, health experts recommended the maintenance of a two-metre social distance between individuals as opposed to the previous one-metre distance.

Because of the high transmissibility of the variant, Sri Lanka College of Internal Medicine President Dr. Harsha Sathischandra yesterday (28) said that it is recommended that individuals maintain a distance of two metres instead of one.

“About 1,000 cases are reported daily from about 16,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted, and the patients are showing more symptoms. Because of the high transmissibility, stay home as much as possible, wear a mask when leaving the house, and maintain a two-metre distance, as it is more appropriate.”

Responding to questions raised as to whether this variant is airborne, the experts said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not yet stated as to whether this variant is airborne or whether it is transmitted through droplets but that scientific evidence shows that it is airborne.

“Scientific evidence has been published in journals like The Lancet that this variant is airborne. If we behave under the assumption that this variant is airborne, it would be ideal. It is difficult to prove whether it is airborne or not.”

They said that social distancing should be maintained to prevent the transmission of the virus through droplets and that a mask should be worn to prevent the transmission through finer droplets called aerolets that could be in the air.

University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJP) Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara yesterday announced the detection of the SARS-Cov-2 variant B.1.1.7 (UK strain) in gene sequencing conducted on 42 samples collected from Colombo, Boralesgamuwa, and Kurunegala during the two weeks after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“The USJP will be conducting further sequencing to find out as to what other variants are spreading in the country. The UK variant has a higher mortality rate of 55% and a higher transmissibility of 50%.”

However, Dr. Jeewandara said that the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine that is currently administered in Sri Lanka responds well to this variant.

The UK variant was detected in the community in Sri Lanka when a group of construction site workers in Boralesgamuwa were detected with the UK variant on 8 April, Dr. Jeewandara said at a media briefing.

As neighbouring India is reeling under a deadly second wave of Covid-19, Dr. Jeewandara said that the mutant variant that has been detected in India has not been detected in the sequencing conducted in Sri Lanka yet.

“We have not detected what is called the Indian variant in Sri Lanka. However, about 50% of the cases reported in Punjab and New Delhi are of the UK strain.”

Distancing now two meters with UK strain in SL