Heed the bitter lessons from Alpha and delayed response Use COVID-19 death toll to measure pulse of the country Hailing the fact that the lockdown in May-June appears to have impacted on the infection numbers which are showing a downward trend, many experts however cautioned that Sri Lanka needs to be very vigilant. “The infection [...]


Warning against Delta upswing & reckless opening for large gatherings


  • Heed the bitter lessons from Alpha and delayed response
  • Use COVID-19 death toll to measure pulse of the country

Hailing the fact that the lockdown in May-June appears to have impacted on the infection numbers which are showing a downward trend, many experts however cautioned that Sri Lanka needs to be very vigilant.

“The infection numbers seem to be coming down but we need to make sure that it is not a reflection of lower testing numbers. The more intensive the testing, the more cases you may see,” an expert said.

He urged that Sri Lanka needs to question why there is no significant reduction in the number of people who are dying each day, even accepting that there is a lag period between cases and deaths.

“The number of positive cases and deaths dropping – assuming the testing numbers are adequate – shows that the lockdown or travel restrictions have had an impact. Beyond the ‘numbers’, it is clear that the lockdown has led to a reduction of pressure in hospitals, high dependency units (HDUs) and intensive care units (ICUs) which were at breaking point by the end of May,” he pointed out.

Another wondered why the death toll was not dropping in proportion to the reported cases and said that COVID-19 deaths rather than infections may be a better indicator of what is happening around the country.

There was also much concern over the spread of the Delta variant, with genetic sequencing bringing to the fore some of the affected.

“Sri Lanka should remember that the Delta variant is 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that caused the third wave. The Delta variant is also 100% more transmissible than the second wave virus. It has created a significant rise in infection numbers in countries such as the United Kingdom (UK),” one expert who studies worldwide trends was quick to point out.

The detection and spread of the Delta variant must promptly trigger caution in our COVID-19 response, others stressed.

“We cannot fall into the same trap we fell into with the emergence of the Alpha variant, when Sri Lanka’s response was delayed. But we seem to be doing so,” warned an expert, a view echoed by many.

At this time it makes no sense to relax measures preventing larger gatherings such as weddings, religious events and other large events, they said, adding that such events are not essential to keep the economy of the country running or to help the daily paid workers earn their living. What premature relaxation may lead to is the acceleration of the upswing of cases of the Delta variant that would once again compel the country to go into a lockdown.

“Bitter was the lesson that we learnt from the Minuwangoda cluster, while also paying a very high price for our complacency with regard to the Alpha variant when it first raised its spikes in the community which faced the wrath of the third wave,” one said, cautioning against the foolish misconception with regard to “exceptionalism” Sri Lanka seems to have about itself, which is a fatal mistake.

A rapid spread could be set off with people gathering at places of religious worship as has been experienced in countries such as India and Malaysia, they warned, stating categorically that these can be termed “unnecessary relaxations which are not essential for the economy to get back on track. It is being reckless”.

Turning the spotlight on Delta, many said it was a foolish interpretation that Sri Lanka was not seeing severe disease from this variant. Infection numbers are like an iceberg – the bigger part is under water and the numbers detected would depend on the testing. At the beginning, the Indian situation appeared very severe because only the most severe cases were being tested. Then you see only the more severe end of the disease spectrum.

They said that it is inconceivable that the Delta variant has changed its virulence just because it got into Sri Lanka. Even in the UK, some have got mild infections but others severe infections.

One expert said, “What we need to understand is that like COVID-19, the variants also have a spectrum of disease. The bottom line is that although lockdowns are removed, we should communicate to the people that things are not back to normal. The COVID-19 situation is still precarious and will remain so until the whole country is fully vaccinated.

“While we return to work, we should be conscious of maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, reducing all unnecessary travel and avoiding large gatherings.”

Another explained why we should keep to these measures. “This will allow a longer interval of COVID-19 transmission control during which we can ramp up vaccination and keep the Delta variant at bay. To relax too much and too fast before the vaccination has become widespread and countrywide, not just in the Western Province, is foolhardy.

Yes, the industries need to be opened up based on a judgement made day-by-day, otherwise it would be disastrous for the whole economy of the country not only in terms of illness but also death, said another.

The simple logic is: Delta has come to Sri Lanka and it is here to stay. The impact will be felt faster, the more we relax. The faster we relax, the faster the spread will be.

Referring to the vaccination programme, many pointed out that giving the jab to the Western Province was not adequate to curb the virus. This country has more than one province. There is a need to vaccinate those in high-risk areas but every eligible Sri Lankan in the high-risk categories needs to be vaccinated urgently for the country to be safe.

Increased transmission around the world: WHO

An increased transmission is being seen around the world, warned a World Health Organization (WHO) expert recently, cautioning that people remain largely susceptible to infection through variants of concern including the Delta variant.

The Technical Lead for COVID-19 of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove focused on four contributory factors for increased transmission. They are:

Variants of concern including the Delta variant.

Increased social mixing and increased social mobility which increase the number of contacts that individuals have.

Relaxation or the inappropriate use of public health and social measures. Proven public health and social measures prevent infections, reduce the spread of the infection from person to person and save lives.

Uneven and inequitable distribution of vaccines.


More vaccines due in SL

 The vaccines expected are:

July 20 – 60,000 doses of Pfizer

July 28 – 2 million doses of Sinopharm and 90,000 doses of Pfizer

1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca (from COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, through Japan)

The vaccines received by
Sri Lanka so far:

January – 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca; February – 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca; March – 264,000 doses of AstraZeneca (from COVAX) & 600,000 doses of Sinopharm; May – 65,000 doses of Sputnik V & 500,000 doses of Sinopharm; June – 2 million doses of Sinopharm & 65,000 doses of Sputnik V (second doses of Ad5); and up to July 18 – 4 million doses of Sinopharm, 53,000 doses of Pfizer, 50,000 doses of Sputnik V & 1.5 million doses of Moderna (from COVAX).

The total doses received: 10,096,000.

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