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Friday August 19th, 2022

Omicron spreading faster than Delta in Sri Lanka: expert

ECONOMYNEXT – With a noticeable increase in cases, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is becoming the dominant strain in Sri Lanka and currently spreading faster than the previously dominant Delta variant, experts said.

Director of the Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) Dr Chandima Jeewandara told reporters on Saturday (15) that 106 new Omicron cases have been detected at the USJ lab, bringing the total to 205.

“We handed over the new gene sequencing report to the Ministry of Health today. In the latest test using 182 samples, 160 tested positive for Omicron and 22 wereDelta, which means in Sri Lanka, Omicron is becoming the dominant variant,” said Jeewandara.

The new cases were found mainly in Colombo, Galle, Matara, Kandy, Trincomalee and Gamapha districts, he said.

“There are three main sub lineages that have been identified in the Omicron variant, namely BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. Out of these three we have identified both BA.1 and BA.2 sub lineages in the samples,” said Jeewandara.

The difference between the two lineages identified in the country is that, BA.2 is suspected to have more mutations and shows resistance to natural and vaccine immunity and therefore has a better ability to infect.

According to the expert, out of 160 Omicron cases, 139 belong to the BA.1 lineage while 17 belongs to the BA.2 lineage.

The World Health Organisastion (WHO) recognising the Omicron variant as a variant of concern on November 26. Sri Lanka’s health authorities identified the country’s first Omicron patient on December 03.

The patient was a returnee from anAfrican country where the variant was initially identified.

The latest research shows that the Omicron variant can spread 3.2 times faster than the current dominant Delta variant, said Jeewandara.

Of the samples that came back positive for Omicron, he said, a majority belonged to outbound passengers: people who took a PCR test in order to go abroad.

Most samples that came back positive for Omicron among arrivals to the island were of people who have not been vaccinated, while a majority of outbound positives had been fully vaccinated but had not shown any symptoms.

Meanwhile, the health ministry’s epidemiology unit said COVID-19 numbers have increased over the past few days, which is “alarming”. Officials urged the public who are eligible to get the booster to do so within the week.

Health authorities detected new 677 infections on Friday (14) bringing the total number of cases in the country to 594,996.

“This is a very crucial time for us as a country. Vaccination is the reason we have been able to control the spread to this level. So everyone who is eligible, please get the booster within this week, because the next two weeks is dangerous,” Epidemiologist D Deepa Gamage told reporters on Friday (14).

With 16 deaths confirmed on Friday, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 death toll has increase to 15,190.

So far 16.2 million have received a single dose of the vaccine, while 13.8 million have received two doses. However, only 4.5 million have received the booster dose so far.

Related: Sri Lanka doctors say Covid-19 booster can slash hospitalization by 90-pct

(Colombo/ Jan 15/2022)

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Sri Lanka schedules 3-hour power cuts for Aug 20, 21: regulator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will impose power cuts of up to three hours on Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21, Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said.

All areas (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W) will have power cuts of 1 hours and 40 minutes between 10.30 am and 06.00 pm and 1 hour 20 minutes from 06.00pm to 10.00 pm.

Click here for a detailed schedule.

The state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said supply interruption time and restoration time will vary within 30 minutes as indicated above.

Sri Lanka’s daily scheduled power cuts that were reduced to one hour in July with power generation from hydro power plants contributing more than 50 percent to the main grid reducing thermal power plant use was extended to three hours last week due to a breakdown at the Norochcholai coal power plant.

According to officials, the breakdown happened in Unit 1 of Norochcholai which will take around two weeks to repair.

The Minister of Power & Energy said Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work while Unit 3 will continue to operate. West Coast and other fuel power pPlants will be used to manage the supply, the ministry said. (Colombo/Aug02/2022)

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Sri Lanka guidance peg edges T-bond yield edge down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions edged down on Friday (19), while yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly and in T-bill remain unquoted in dull trade, a day after the Central Bank announced the policy rates will remain stable, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.95/28.05 percent on Friday, slightly up from 27.90/28.00 percent on Thursday.

No T-bills were quoted on Friday, dealers said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions further weakened by three cents to 361.00 rupees against the US dollar on Friday from 360.97 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 368.00 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 19/2022)

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Sri Lanka records 10 new COVID-19 deaths in 48 hours as case numbers rise

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths in the 48 hours from August 17 to 19 taking the country’s pandemic death toll to 16,640, health ministry data showed.

Sri Lanka is experiencing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases with the relaxation of public health restrictions relating to face masks and public gatherings.

Health authorities said the situation will be monitored constantly and have asked the general public to continue to follow basic hygiene measures in order to control the spread of the virus again in the community.

In August alone 2,924 new cases were recorded in Sri Lanka, with 84 deaths attributed to the disease.

So far in 2022, from January onward, health authorities have identified 81,157 patients to date.

Epidemiology unit data showed that 874 patients are currently receiving treatment, out of which 716 are receiving home based care.

The spread of the virus has increased with the use of public transport rising after an easing of a fuel crisis.

Sri Lanka is also facing difficulties in securing essential medicine supplies for the health sector due to a forex shortage.

Health officials said if the number of COVID-19 patients rise to a level the health sector cannot manage,  with the added issues of fuel and medical shortages, the health system might collapse.

“It is the responsibility of us all. There is no use trying to forcibly control people. We all have the responsibility to reduce or stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of control. We have been living with it for the past two years,” Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said. (Colombo/Aug19/2022)

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