Sri Lanka fights shy of community spread | Sunday Observer
Covid-19 second wave :

Sri Lanka fights shy of community spread

25 October, 2020
PCR testing in progress at the Peliyagoda fish market.  Pic: Hirantha  Gunathilake
PCR testing in progress at the Peliyagoda fish market. Pic: Hirantha Gunathilake

Sri Lanka which is in its second wave of the Covid-19 global pandemic is showing a disturbing trend, recording over 4,000 positive cases in less than three weeks.

A spokesman for the Information Department said that 865 cases were reported during the 24 hours ending at 10 p.m. on Friday. So far the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters have reported 3,682 patients.

Since October 4, on which date the Minuwangoda Brandix cluster outbreak started, the rapid spread of the virus pushed the officials to expedite the issuing of a government Gazette with fresh, stringent Covid-19 guidelines and punitive measures for those flouting the regulations.

People have been warned to strictly follow the new normal rules which make it mandatory to wear the face mask, wash hands and follow social distancing norms to contain the second wave. Yet, officials said the people were more complacent in observing the rules this time unlike during the first wave, therefore, the impact would be severe.

Fourteenth death

Last week, the country recorded its 14th Covid-19 death. The previous death was reported on September 14 and the first Covid-19 death in late March this year.

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) echoed the Health Ministry warning that the second wave could cripple the whole country if it reaches community spread, especially, as we have an aging population .

During the first wave - the Kandakadu cluster, Italy returnees, the Navy cluster, the drug addicts and the Middle East returnees- were all in the young and middle aged category which was why the country had less patients developing Covid-19 complications leading to fatalities, Dr. Samitha Ginige of the Epidemiology Unit said. He said it is a myth that the country experienced a less severe strain of the virus or other similar rumours.

However, the Government is yet to officially announce that the virus has reached community level.

“Our people did not feel the full impact of Covid-19 during the first wave, it just brushed past us while many countries in the West had to grapple with overflowing hospitals and dead bodies,” the Army Commander was quoted as saying, expressing fear that people’s complacency could reverse our positive Covid-19 trajectory this time.

First patient

After three weeks into the second wave, health officials are yet to confirm how it started and whether the Brandix worker was in fact the first patient in that cluster.

The Minuwangoda Brandix cluster passed the 2,000 mark on October 17 and gradually began to show a downward trend. But within six days this figure doubled when hundreds of cases were identified at the Peliyagoda fish market starting on October 21 initially with 49 fish traders and helpers testing positive in a random check. The tests were conducted by PHIs when nearby boutiques and pharmacies claimed that they were selling more paracetamol and aspirin tablets to those visiting the fish market.

Earlier, as the week began, three villages in Mathugama were isolated when 26 Corona patients were detected on Sunday. By Wednesday five nearby villages – in the Agalawatte and Palindanuwara DS divisions were also isolated.

Alarmingly, since the fish market outbreak last Wednesday the numbers have begun to soar again.

Soon after this sudden discovery, the Government clamped down a district wide quarantine curfew in Gampaha. The curfew which began at 10 p.m. on Wednesday is to continue until further notice. It was earlier due to be lifted at 5 a.m. on Monday.

The Public Health Inspectors (PHI) said the most identified cases at the fish market are drug addicts, who are difficult to control and be placed under quarantine.

On Thursday morning the Government placed six police areas in Colombo – Modera, Mattakkuliya, Grandpass, Bloemendhal and Wellampitiya under quarantine curfew after the fish market Covid-19 patients were traced to these areas.

Fish market cluster

Over 800 from the fish market cluster have been quarantined and another 800 were being self quarantined as of Thursday.

By Thursday Covid-19 cases were being reported from Colombo 7, Meegoda, Panadura, Kottawa and several other areas. The two cases from Colombo 7 were residents at the up-market apartment complex Cinnamon residencies. The building was later declared an area of self isolation. More cases were reported from Dehiwala, Kalubowila, Homagama, Moratuwa and Piliyandala areas.

Twenty-five Customs officers were also placed under quarantine when two officers tested positive on the same day.

Kotahena was placed under lockdown on Thursday while part of Balapitiya in the Galle district was isolated on Friday when 15 people who attended a funeral tested positive. The Beruwala Port was also closed when a random test found 10 corona infected people on Friday.

So far Covid-19 positive cases have been found in 13 districts including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Moneragala, Badulla, Jaffna and Vavuniya, after the second wave got activated early this month. On Thursday 309 positive cases have been reported, Head of National Operations Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 outbreak, Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva said. He said by Thursday 186 of the Minuwangoda cluster had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The Foreign Ministry, joining a number of state agencies, which have restricted or suspended their services, announced that the Consular Affairs division of the Ministry was suspending all services until further notice so as to restrict congregation and the spread of the virus.

The Department of Registrar of Persons also announced that it has suspended all services until further notice. The Immigration and Emigration Department as well as the Registrar of Motor Vehicles have announced restricted services due to the pandemic.

The State has launched a Hotline 1999, to dial in case someone suspects he has contracted the virus.