Alpha, Delta variants detected from nine areas in Sri Lanka

Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Director of the Allergy, Immunity and Cell Biology Unit at the Sri Jayewardenepura University.

The highly contagious Alpha COVID-19 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom (UK), has been reported from nine areas in Sri Lanka.

Director of the Allergy, Immunity and Cell Biology Unit at the Sri Jayewardenepura University, Dr. Chandima Jeewandara said Indian and Sri Lankan variants have been detected in two areas.

The B.1.1.7, UK Alpha Variant has been reported from Colombo, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Kuliyapitiya, Wariyapola, Habaraduwa, Tissamaharamaya, Karapitiya, and Ragama.

Meanwhile, the B.1.617.2, the Indian variant of the virus (Delta) has been detected from a quarantine facility in Waskaduwa. This is the highly contagious variant that led to the devastating second wave in India and Nepal.

It has also been reported that the Delta variant has been detected from a traveller from Sri Lanka in Melbourne. Public health teams in Melbourne had matched the strain to a man who arrived in Melbourne from Sri Lanka and tested positive on the same day. This gave rise to suspicions that the Delta variant could be present in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Jeewandara said the B.1.411, a Sri Lankan lineage of COVID-19, has been reported from Tissamaharama. He said the detections have been revealed as per the report issued on Wednesday following the genomic sequencing of samples from COVID patients by his team from the Sri Jayewardenepura University.

Dr. Jeewandara further said that healthcare workers who were detected with the UK variant (Alpha) two weeks after receiving the second dose of the AstraZeneca Covishield coronavirus vaccine have all recovered.

Scientists have however noted that those who are vaccinated have a greater chance of evading infection from the new variants, which are highly transmissible and more lethal.

A new study from Public Health England showed two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant compared with 93% effectiveness against the Alpha variant, the variant first detected in the U.K.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the Delta variant has spread to 62 countries, but it is hitting young people the hardest unlike the original variants of the virus. The WHO gave new names to the variants as associating various countries with the variants have led to stigma.