Sri Lanka vulnerable, caution authorities
New COVID VARIANTS
Due to the careless testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), there is a robust prospect that any novel variant of COVID-19 inflowing to the country, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island newspaper yesterday commenting on the discovery of a new coronavirus variant scattering in South Africa.
Even a travel prohibition would be worthless without the country boosts its testing and supervision capabilities, Kumudesh said.
Kumudesh said that PCR tests were not performed on passengers on arrival and that it was probable that even those not fully vaccinated were arriving in the country. “Gene sequencing in respect of those infected with COVID inside the country was at a minimal level, and therefore, there is no way we can find out whether a new variant has entered the country until it is too late.
“There are two state-of-the-art labs in the BIA but no tests are done there. We are not ready, at all. Several nations are imposing travel bans on travellers from South Africa and the region. Perhaps, we should follow suit. However, the fact that we don’t test those coming in means that even a travel ban might be useless,” he said.
Kumudesh added that the number of PCR tests conducted had dropped to such a low level that reagents used in some labs for PCR testing are now nearing the expiry dates. The attitude of health officials at the airport is such that everyone operates on the basis that testing of passengers is not important.
Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya yesterday said the detection of the new South African variant was potentially very bad news for all countries, and certainly for Sri Lanka.
“We still don’t have sufficient data on this, but I am very worried. It was only discovered a few days ago, but the scanty evidence strongly indicates that this new variant is driving a rapid increase in infections in S Africa. Only 100 cases have been confirmed officially, but reports indicate it may be 90% of new cases since Wed in Johannusburg,” he said.
Dr. Rannan-Eliya said that his best guess was that three out of four South Africans had been infected by COVID during the pandemic. Thus, a large number of them had acquired natural immunity. Moreover, 25% of others have been vaccinated.