UK COVID-19 variant confirmed in Sri Lanka as British national tests positive


COLOMBO – A British national who recently arrived in Colombo has tested positive for the new strain of the novel coronavirus discovered in the UK, Chief Epidemiologist Dr.H Sudath Samaraweera confirmed on Wednesday (13).

Health ministry sources said the new variant had been confirmed by Professor Neelika Malavige from the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and the University’s research team on COVID-19.

Dr. Samaraweera warned the new variant is highly transmissible and behaves differently to existing strain in the country, but said no new measures have been taken as yet.  However, he said health guidelines will be further strictly implemented to prevent the new strain from entering into society.

Details about the patient and the circumstances of his arrival in the island are unclear at present. Samaraweera said he did not have flight details of the patient.

Sri Lanka banned flights from the UK on December 22 following the discovery of the new variant. However, one flight that had already departed London at the time the directive was issued was allowed to land in Colombo, sources said, while a second flight had already landed at the time.

Meanwhile, the English cricket team arrived in Sri Lanka earlier this month for a two-test tour. Team member Moeen Ali tested positive for the virus on January 4, but according to official reports issued by the national COVID-19 task force, he was not carrying the new variant officially known at VUI-202012/01 or lineage B117.

The strain has spread to some 45 countries across the world. World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday (11) a new coronavirus mutation has been found in Japan. The new strains are “highly problematic” if allowed to burden hospitals already under intense pressure, he said.

“The more the virus spreads, the higher the chance of new changes to the virus,” international media quoted Tedros as saying at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

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