Covid-19 under control - Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva | Sunday Observer

Covid-19 under control - Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva

Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva
Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva

The Sri Lankan Military along with health officials have been at the forefront of battling the Covid-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka. When a Covid 19 positive patient was reported from the Welikada prison on July 7, the outbreak of the virus was traced back to the Kandakadu Drug Rehabilitation Centre, Polonnaruwa.

With concerns of a possible second wave of Covid-19 affecting the country, Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Chief of Defence Staff and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of? the Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO), Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva in an interview this week revealed the current Covid 19 situation in the country while rebutting criticism against steps taken to combat the spread of Covid -19 in Sri Lanka.

Q. What is the exact Covid 19 situation on the ground level right now and is it under control?

A. We were able to get the situation under control. But this virus emerged suddenly from Kandakadu again. We started searching for the root cause behind this and found a Covid - 19 infected person from the Welikada prison. He had been transferred to the Welikada Prison from the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre.

As you all know, there are two camps in Kandakadu. The Kandakadu Quarantine Centre which is fully run by the Army and the other, the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre for drug addicts under the Ministry of Justice. This affected person’s case was identified from the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre.??

Q. How did the virus enter the Kandakadu Drug Rehabilitation Center?

A. From the beginning there were three vulnerable groups at the centre. First, those inmates in the Rehabilitation Centre, people who were allowed to visit the inmates and the staff and instructors who went on leave during that period. Usually under the guidance of the Director General of the Rehabilitation Centre, these inmates are permitted to meet their families. So 116 families under strict health rules were allowed to visit the inmates.??

However, we found a cluster of 492 Covid 19 positive cases from Kandakadu by July 9. With the support of the military intelligence services we have been able to identify them and get the whole lot quarantined.

Already the health authorities have taken the responsibility of testing them.? They will give the results very soon and we would be able to reveal the root cause of the Kandakadu cluster then.??

Q. What is the Government’s plan if a new cluster is found within the community?

?A. Already we have taken steps to put those who are under the risk of contracting Covid -19 into quarantine. The Rajanganaya incident which arose suddenly was the next case. From the funeral which the Covid-19 positive counsellor had attended another 14 cases were identified.

Fourteen cases have been confirmed as Covid- 19 positive and more than 300 families have been put under self- quarantine. Among those, people who associated them but not yet identified as patients have also been cautioned by the authorities. We will be able to trace all the contacts and solve this matter soon.??

Q. Some say that you are not going for a lockdown because you are helping the Government for the forthcoming election campaign. Your comment?

A. That is not true. Earlier, the circumstances were different. House quarantine was not possible as there were so many members in the family, there was a problem of allocating people into self-quarantine or home quarantine.? On those occasions also, people started going here and there within the village. So, we had to put the whole lot in quarantine and villages were isolated. But today we do not have such a situation for a lock down.? If this is a plan of the Government what do you say about the closing of schools for another seven days? Why is that? It was a precaution taken by the Government against the pandemic. There’s nothing to hide about the current Covid -19 situation.??

Q. There is an opinion among civilians that our PCR testing system is not reliable. Can our PCR testing system be trusted?

A. Of course. Why not? It is reliable. Every day we do more than 1,500 PCR tests. Under the guidance of the Director General Health Services health authorities do the testing properly. I am not a doctor. But as per the rules and regulations, we conduct proper tests.??

Q. The continuous repatriation of Sri Lankans trapped abroad has also come under fire in recent times. Your comment?

?A. Right now we have halted the procedure. But we were able to bring down so many Sri Lankans from various countries.

The Covid- 19 numbers may be rising but we cannot forget that they are our own Sri Lankans. They have a right to come to Sri Lanka at any moment.

Therefore, we should bring them back to the country. As a nation we can be happy. Because they are our people. We brought them back to Sri Lanka. Not only that, we quarantined them, looked after them and released them as healthy people.??

Q. What are the future plans in relation to repatriations?

A. For everything the Army has a methodical and organised plan. As per the previous plan, the airport will re-open on August 1. We have to consider the current situation in the country and the outside world as well.

The country is prepared to open fully The only thing is people are restricted from doing some things to a certain extent.??

Q. Whenever the country is in crisis the military comes to its assistance. Does every military have that capacity to perform the duties?

A. Yes of course. That is our prime duty. But this is a new challenge for us. This is the first time we’re facing a global pandemic.

So, this issue is very broad. Accordingly, the military has to intervene during any circumstance which happens in the country like when there is terrorism, extremism, health matters, calamities and other disasters. In any of these areas, the Sri Lankan military is fully geared to face it. Whether we have the potential or capability, we will never say ‘no’.

We will ensure that we protect our country at any cost. In this Covid case we had the CBRN section enrolled with the UN as well the PHIs, Police, Tri Forces and Security Defence andother relevant services. On the professional body’s recommendations on prevention of Covid -19 in society, the military is ready to perform their respective duties.??

Q. Finally, what is your message to the Sri Lankan public?

A. For the past four months we have been talking about the behaviour of people. Still, we are talking about the health rules.

Every citizen of this country should take all precautions to ensure that you will not be a Covid patient. Society should have the responsibility with them. As a disciplined country, people should have the responsibility to wear face masks, washing their hands and maintaining social distance.

People have to adhere to the guidelines given by the the health authorities. We have very clear communication of protocols in the country.??

Courtesy:? Army Media? ??

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