The new UK variant of COVID-19 has entered Sri Lanka, health officials have said, adding that England cricketer Moeen Ali had been tested positive for the new strain of the virus when he was tested here.

The England cricket team is currently touring Sri Lanka for two-Test series. Ali had been tested positive on January 4, Hemantha Herath, the deputy director-general of health services, said on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka has 50,200 cases of coronavirus and 247 deaths related to it since mid-March when the first outbreak was reported. Nearly 47,000 of them had been reported only after October 4.

The presence of the new UK variant of the coronavirus has been reported by several countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

Sudath Samaraweera, the chief epidemiologist, said the UK variant was highly infectious and could lead to many more cases than Sri Lanka had seen so far. “This is why we insist on serious quarantine procedures,” he said.

The country was on a total lockdown till mid May. Since then there had only been partial isolation of affected areas. The country’s airports are scheduled to be re-open on January 21 after the original plans were shelved due to the new surge in cases.

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