20-30 percent of unconfirmed Delta cases in Sri Lanka may be in Colombo: official

ECONOMYNEXT – Sixty-eight Sri Lankans have tested positive for the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with 20 to 30 percent of unconfirmed Delta cases in the community suspected to be from the Colombo district.

Deputy Director of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said initial research has confirmed that Delta is present in the community.

“There can be Delta patients in all districts in varying numbers that we cannot accurately determine at the moment,” Herath told reporters Monday (26).

“As per research carried out so far, we suspect 20 to 30 percent of Delta cases may be present in the Colombo district,” he added.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Delta strain – also known as B.1.617.2 – is expected to rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months.

“According to GISAID data, as of 20 July, the prevalence of Delta among the specimens sequenced over the past 4 weeks exceeded 75 percent in many countries worldwide including Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Israel, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom”, a WHO report said.

Growing evidence supports the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant as compared to non-Variant of Concerns (VOCs). However, the WHO said, the exact mechanism for the increase in transmissibility remains unclear.

A variant of concern is more transmissible, or is associated with more disease severity, or evades immunity (meaning it can infect people who have already had COVID-19 or have received a vaccine).

A recent study in China during an outbreak of the Delta variant examined the time interval from the exposure of a quarantined population to the first positive PCR result and found that the interval may be shorter for the Delta variant when compared to non-VOCs.

“Moreover, the viral load of the first positive test of Delta infection was over 1200 times higher than non-VOCs, suggesting that this VOC may be able to replicate faster and be more infectious during the early stages of infection,” a report said.

The WHO said a study done in Canada showed the risk of hospitalisation, ICU admission and death associated with the Delta variant compared to non-VOCs increased by 120 Percent, 287 percent and 137 percent respectively.

“Increased disease severity was also identified for Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants combined when compared to non-VOCs: 59 percent for hospitalization, 105 percent for ICU admission and 61 percent for death.”

Globally, cases of the Alpha variant have been reported in 180 countries, territories or areas (hereafter countries; six new countries in the past week), while 130 countries (seven new countries) have reported cases of the Beta variant; 78 countries (three new countries) have reported cases of the Gamma variant; and 124 countries (13 new countries) have reported cases of the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Health Services Director General Dr Asela Gunawardena said the number of COVID-19 patients in the country has increased during the past few days with more travel restrictions being relaxed by the authorities.

On Sunday (25), 1,666 people tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of patients in the third wave to 197,173.

The number of patients receiving treatment is 24,815.

With 45 deaths being reported on July 24, total COVID-19 deaths have increased to 4,099.

Dr Gunawardena said most of the patients who passed away due to the virus were above 60 years of age and hadn’t been vaccinated.

“We ask everyone who is eligible to take the vaccine, especially citizens above 60 years of age, without worrying about which vaccine is being rolled out,” he said. (Colombo/Jul26/2021)

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