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SL cautious over concerns of deadly Lambda variant sneaking in



by Suresh Perera

Sri Lanka’s overwhelmed public health care sector, already under tremendous pressure over galloping Covid-19 infection numbers, has raised the alarm over the possibility of the deadly Lambda variant sneaking into the country.

“We have to be on the alert”, a senior medical official cautioned, as the latest mutated variant of the coronavirus swept across 30 South American countries.

There are stringent quarantine measures in place at points of entry into the country, but there is always the possibility of some people arriving from overseas escaping detection, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director-General of Medical Services.

The Lambda (C.37) variant, initially identified in Peru in December 2020, now accounts for the majority of infections there. In what medical experts described as an “alarming trend”, the highly transmissible Covid-19 strain is on the rise in other South American countries, including Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil.

Dr. Herath said that all those coming to Sri Lanka from overseas are placed under 14 days mandatory quarantine, which is generally sufficient to identify positive cases. However, there could be outliers who escape detection.

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) screening doesn’t translate into a 100% ‘all clear’ where the identification of the infection is concerned. That’s why there’s a follow up mandatory quarantine period, he pointed out.

“Under the circumstances, the possibility of the new strain emerging in Sri Lanka is inevitable. Therefore, we should be alert to the situation and be geared to meet any eventuality”, he stressed.

“Our laboratory sequencing has so far not detected the Lambda variant in Sri Lanka”, said Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

He said the newest strain has already affected more than 30 countries in South America.

Asked whether the vaccines now being administered have been found effective against the Lambda variant, he replied, “that’s still not known”.

“The only way the threat of Covid-19 and its variants can be defeated is by collectively adhering to stipulated health safety guidelines”, Dr. Herath underscored.

If people tread cautiously without lowering their guard, the virus will ultimately die down as it cannot survive without human cells to multiply, another medical official said.

“Irresponsible public behavior will only help to aggravate the situation, as seen in April this year, when unrestricted inter-provincial travel, crowd gathering and merry-making during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year led to an explosive situation with infections multiplying”, he warned.

According to reports, scientists and experts see the latest Lambda variant of the virus as a fresh threat to the gains made over the last year or so.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a variant becomes a “variant of interest” when it is identified as a cause for significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries, with increasing relative prevalence alongside the increasing number of cases over time.

Besides, such a variant also shows signs of other apparent “epidemiological impacts” to suggest an emerging risk to global public health, the world health body said.

Meanwhile. the United Kingdom health body, Public Health England (PHE), designated Lambda as a “variant under investigation” on June 23, a day after the country reported a total of six cases.


Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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