Geneva: The World Health Organisation's (WHO) Europe director warned that the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant first identified in India is “poised to take hold in the region”, as many countries prepare to ease restrictions and allow more social gatherings and travel across borders.
During a press briefing on Thursday, WHO's Dr Hans Kluge said the variant also known as the delta variant, has shown signs of being able to evade some vaccines and warned that many vulnerable populations, particularly those over age 60, remain unprotected.
“We have been here before,” warned Kluge, WHO's European regional director. “Over the course of last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups and then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence,” he said.
Kluge said spike in COVID-19 ultimately led to more lockdowns and deaths in the fall and winter of 2020. “Let's not make that mistake again.”
Kluge didn't say people shouldn't travel, but urged any travellers to do so wisely. He also called for vaccination and other public health measures to be stepped up across the continent, saying even immunisation coverage “is far from sufficient to protect the region”.
Alpha, Delta Variants Found in Sri Lanka
Colombo: The highly contagious Alpha and Delta variants of the coronavirus have been detected in Sri Lanka, which is facing a third wave of the pandemic, a top health official said on Thursday.
Patients carrying the Delta variant, or the B1.617.2 variant first identified in India, and the Alpha strain, formerly called the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the UK, have been found at around nine locations of different districts in Sri Lanka, said Dr Chandima Jeewandara, the Director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, PTI reported.
According to the sequencing report issued on Wednesday, 80 people were infected with the Alpha variant in multiple locations while the Delta variant was found in one person from a quarantine facility.
The Alpha variant cases were also reported in healthcare workers who were fully vaccinated.
Sri Lanka has witnessed an increase of positive cases and deaths since April, partly caused by celebrations and shopping during last month's traditional new year festival. Sri Lanka has registered more than 210,000 cases and 1,843 confirmed deaths.
In view of the pressure on the health sector with the raging third wave, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has issued instructions to reinstate retired health workers on contract basis to battle the pandemic.
Sri Lanka continues with its vaccination programme with the arrival of another million doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine out of a total 13 million which the country had ordered this year. The first batch of one million doses of Sinopharm arrived early this month.
The Health Ministry will extend the vaccine rollout to 12 more districts soon, the officials said.
The first dose of Covishield vaccine from India has been administered to 925,242 people so far with 353,789 being given the second dose. For the 600,000 shortfall for the second dose, the government says they are sourcing other suppliers.
Sri Lanka has requested Japan provide 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in an attempt to complete administering the second dose to citizens.
Additionally, 64,986 people have received the first dose of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. By last night over 2 million of the island's 21 million population has been vaccinated.