ECONOMYNEXT – Omicron has replaced Delta as the dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Sri Lanka, with over 95 percent of gene sequenced samples testing positive for the new strain, officials said.
Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr Ranjith Batuwanthudawa told the privately owned Derana TV network on Tuesday (25) that over 95 percent of the samples sequenced at both the Medical Research Institute and the Allergy and Cell Biology unit at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) have come back positive for Omicron.
However, according to Batuwanthudawa, Omicron has taken around two months to take hold in the country, whereas in other countries it became dominant in just two weeks after the first detection.
The latest USJ report, issued last week, said out of 78 samples sequenced, 75 turned out to be Omicron while only three were Delta.
So far, 56 cases of the Omicron sub-lineage BA.1 have been detected in Colombo, Avissawella, Borelesgamuwa, Homagama, Katugoda, Kosgama, Madapatha, Padukka, Parakudawa and Wellampitiya, while 12 cases of BA.2 have been detected in Avissawella, Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Konnawala, Mt Lavinia, and Nugegoda.
Another seven cases of B.1.1.529, the original Omicron variant, were also detected in Angoda, Colombo, Ruwanwella, Mt Lavinia, Nugegoda and Padukka, official records show.
“This happened in other countries as well; where Omicron replaced Delta,” Batuwanthudawa said.
Meanwhile, daily COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in Sri Lanka, with over 800 new infections being recorded on Monday (24) for the sixth day running.
Hospitalisations have also increased, along with the number of patients needing oxygen.
A medical superintendent at the Homagama base hospital told reporters on Tuesday that all beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are full. Eighty-one patients are currently being treated at the hospital, an increase from last week.
Deputy Director of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said on Tuesday, however, that the country has yet to see the next wave of the pandemic.
“This wave is already being experienced by a majority of countries by now. In Sri Lanka, we have yet to experience it. It is too early to say that there is no other wave. If this continues we will face major issues,” said Herath.
Classifying the Omicron variant as a mild variant is the main reason for the rise in Omicron cases, he said.
“The reason we have to control this is more cases lead to more people in the community spreading the virus. With more spreading, people with weak immunity may experience severe conditions and possibly death,” warned Herath.
A majority of patients identified daily may be infected with the Omicron variant at present, he said. (Colombo/Jan25/2022)