First local Omicron case detected, arrival from South Africa
Sri Lankan Health authorities yesterday confirmed the country’s first case of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Health Ministry said the new COVID-19 variant was identified in a Sri Lankan national who had recently returned from South Africa.
Addressing a media conference held yesterday at the Health Promotion Bureau, Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath said that the public need not panic over this, since the health authorities are dealing with the situation.
As a result of our vigilance, we have been able to identify an Omicron patient following gene sequencing lab tests,” he said.
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Epideomolgist Dr. Samitha Ginige said the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant as a new variant of the virus on November 26 this year and on the same day necessary measures were taken to suspend the arrival of persons from six South African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini.
He further said that that data pertaining to persons who arrived from the relevant countries within the past month were collected in the surveillance system and the health situation of such persons is being assessed and they are being subject to PCR and rapid antigen tests. But no individual of the group had returned a positive test result thus far.
He further said samples obtained from persons who returned positive results upon arrival were also sent to the Sri Jayawardhanapura University for genome sequencing and this individual who arrived from South Africa was identified as infected with the Omicron variant through one such test. All necessary steps were taken adding the relevant individual is in quarantine, and therefore will not impact the community. His family members and other contacts will also be directed to quarantine, while samples will be obtained from them to determine if they are infected. Dr. Ginige said there is no reason to create undue fear over the Omicron variant entering the country.
He added with globalization the new variant entering the country is not surprising.Dr. Ginige requested the public to strictly adhere to health guidelines and urged persons who are not vaccinated thus far to get vaccinated.
He also requested persons who have only obtained a single dose of the vaccine to obtain both vaccines and persons who have received both doses, especially those aged over 60 years and those with low immunity, to obtain the booster dose of the vaccine, in line with the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry.