COLOMBO (News 1st); Sri Lanka’s Medical Association has warned that the country needs to brace for itself as there is guarantee that the new COVID-19 Omicron variant can be prevented from breaching borders.
SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratne warned there efficacy concerns when it comes to the use of vaccines against COVID-19, given the rise of the latest variant.
“This variant is spreading fast and has already entered several countries. There is risk of this variant entering Sri Lanka,” she warned.
Dr. Gunaratne said it is paramount for the people to continue practicing health guidelines, and since it has not reached Asia, Sri Lanka has time to be prepared to face this new variant.
She said the people must get vaccinated, health sector should be strengthened in order to face this new variant.
Sri Lanka’s Airport Preparedness :
Rajiv Sooriyaarachchi, Vice Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited told News 1st that the Health Ministry has issued respective guidelines to be prepared for the Omicron Variant.
“Sri Lanka already banned travellers from six african countries and the PCR capability will be strengthened,” he said.
From Monday, travellers will not be allowed into the country from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.
The First Detection :
The first South African doctor to alert the authorities about patients with the omicron variant has told that the symptoms of the new variant are unusual but mild.
Dr Angelique Coetzee said she was first alerted to the possibility of a new variant when patients in her busy private practice in the capital Pretoria started to come in earlier this month with Covid-19 symptoms that did not make immediate sense.
They included young people of different backgrounds and ethnicities with intense fatigue and a six-year-old child with a very high pulse rate, she said. None suffered from a loss of taste or smell.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” said Dr Coetzee, a GP for 33 years who chairs the South African Medical Association alongside running her practice.
First discovered in South Africa, Omicron has since been recorded in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Israel Bans Foreigners :
Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant, and said it would usecounter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.
New Detections of Omicron :
Australia : New cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected around the world, with two cases reported in Australia, as more countries try to seal themselves off by imposing travel restrictions.
Denmark : Denmark has registered two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in travellers from South Africa, according to the country’s infectious disease authority.
Netherlands : Dutch health authorities have said that 13 cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands among passengers who were on flights from South Africa earlier this week.
France : Omicron is probably already circulating in France, its health minister said, adding that the government was tightening restrictions to contain it.
Travel Bans :
Indonesia : Indonesia will ban the entry of travellers who have been in eight African countries and extend quarantine times for all arrivals to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, officials have said.
The ban extends to people who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini or Nigeria in the past 14 days.
Middle East: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have suspended flights with a number of African countries due to Omicron.
Saudi state news agency SPA, citing a source with the interior ministry, said direct flights with Angola, Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia had been suspended.
On Friday, the kingdom banned flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe amid Omicron fears.
Bahrain also banned passengers from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, according to the state news agency, BNA. Bahraini nationals and holders of valid visas to Bahrain, however, were allowed to enter.
Health authorities in Sudan also banned flights from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe over the variant.