Sri Lanka COVID-19 situation manageable for now, but caution advised: health official

EOCNOMYNEXT – With some 60 percent of the population vaccinated, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 situation is expected to remain at a manageable state in the event of fourth wave of the epidemic, a health official said.

Public movement and gatherings have seen an increase after Sri Lanka relaxed a COVID-19 lockdown on October 01 followed by a lifting of a six-moth long inter-province travel ban last Sunday (31), with some health experts expressing alarm over a possible new wave of infections.

Director of the Health Promotion Bureau Dr Ranjith Batuwanthudawa said a gradual decrease of patients was seen with restrictions being imposed, and the number of cases has stagnated for the last three to two weeks since the restrictions were lifted. An increase has been noticed, however, and health ministry’s epidemiology unit will give a detailed report within a few days, he said.

“We know, about a month earlier we had around 2,000 daily patients but it has decreased to about 500-700 now,” Batuwanthudawa told reporters on Monday (01).

“But for the past two to three weeks it has been in the range of 500-700, and we did not see a decrease beyond that level.”

Batuwanthudawa said Sri Lanka is at a crucial stage in the pandemic and following health guidelines should become a life habit for the general public.

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), an independent group of medical experts, told reporters on Monday that, according to data analysed by the SLMA, the last week of October  saw 5,002 cases reported in Sri Lanka, indicating a 12.2 percent increase compared to the previous two weeks.

COVID-19 death counts too have increased by 9 percent, the SLMA said, with 132 reported compared to the previous 121.

However according to data released by the epidemiology unit, for the period of October 24 to October 31, recorded positive cases were 4,450, while for the period of October 17-October 23 positive cases were 3,901, indicating a 13.9 percent increase in daily patients.

Batuwanthudawa said if the patient number continued to increase, the authorities will take relevant decisions to control the situation.

“The plan is to control the spread no matter what the variant. I think we have been successful in that. That is why with a successful vaccination program the patient number decreased,” he said.

“If the patients number increases, then we will have to discuss what to do in the future. I think guidelines are also renewed every two weeks with necessary changes and relaxations according to the data.  The Director General of Health also said after analysing the data till November 16 that a decision will be taken about the travel restrictions again.”

Batuwanthudawa further said the responsibility for a spread of the virus cannot be entirely heaped on the general public, through health guideline compliance can help minimise the spread.

“We cannot entirely blame the general public. Transportation is at the same level as it was before COVID,” Batuwanthudawa said.

“Only through behaviour can we control the situation. As we always said, by keeping the mask on and hands clean we can contain the spread in public transport as well.”

The current situation is different to the earlier waves due to a majority of the public having been vaccinated, he added.

“Even though the country is open we are at a different state, because the  fully vaccinated people are also at around 60 percent.

“The increase or decrease of cases can be seen after some time, but since it is two different situations with more vaccinated people, it is believed that there will be no major spreading but clusters can still be created,” he said.

“Both the ministry and the epidemiology unit are aware of that. If that kind of a situation arises, then health officials will take adequate measures,” he added. (Colombo/Nov02/2021)

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