SL’s first case of Omicron detected

By Dilanthi Jayamanne | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 4 2021
News SL’s first case of Omicron detected

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

Sri Lanka detected its first case of Omicron Coronavirus variant, just seven days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated B.1.1.529 a as a variant of concern.

Director of Operations and Clinical Services at Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit, University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJP), Dr. Chandima Jeewandara said on Friday (3) that sequencing is being carried out on foreign returnees. 

It was shown that a Sri Lankan returnee from Nigeria had tested positive for the omicron variant. Not being vaccinated she had been subjected to an on-arrival PCR according to the existing travel guidelines. The person had arrived on 24 November 2021 and the sample had reached his lab facility only a few days ago, Dr. Jeewandara said.

“Initial screening was done where we found that there was an S drop which is an S gene target failure and then we proceeded with genetic sequencing. On Friday (3) morning we found that the particular sample belongs to the omicron variant,” he said, observing that Sri Lanka had become another country where the particular variant of concern was detected.   

The USJP had submitted a special report to the Health Secretary and the Director General Health Services (DGHS).

 “We received samples of overseas returnees from several private and government sector labs for gene sequencing. Compared to 2020 Sri Lankans are immune either by vaccination or infection. With some immunity the possibilities of severe infection are less,” he noted.

Meanwhile, during an urgent media briefing on the same day at the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB), Deputy Director General (DDG) of Disaster Management and Emergency Response, Dr. Hemantha Herath said that the variant had been identified in a 25-year-old woman following surveillance measures taken by the Health Ministry and its affiliated institutions. 

“All control and preventive measures are being taken. However, there is no need for undue fear,” he reassured.  

Acting Epidemiologist, Dr. Samitha Ginige explaining the current measures which had been taken by his Unit said that after the WHO identified the new variant of concern the measures had been taken to impose travel restrictions on Several African countries where the variant had been first detected.  They included Botswana Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland. In addition, surveillance history of those who had arrived from those countries or those with a travel history to the said countries was perused. Currently, their health status verified, they were also being subjected to PCR and laboratory testing. However, no one has been reported from amongst them, he noted. 

Samples taken from those who had tested positive after arriving in Sri Lanka were sent to the USJP for gene sequencing. It was as a result of this that the current viral variant carrier was identified. 

Dr. Ginige said that the person who had returned from an African country had been in quarantine. Her family and all contacts would be quarantined and samples would be taken from them for testing to determine whether they have been affected by the variant, he noted. 

By Dilanthi Jayamanne | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 4 2021

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