Sri Lanka health officials warn of possible spike in COVID-19 cases

ECONOMYNEXT – The recent drop in COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka has come to a halt and an increase in cases  have been reported in several parts of the island, health officials said, warning of a possible rise in patient numbers in the near future.

“We have seen caseload increases in Colombo excluding the Colombo Municipal Council area, Gampaha, Anuradhapura, Galle and Matara districts as well,” Sri Lanka Public Health Inspectors Union (PHI) Chairman Upul Rohana told EconomyNext.

Numbers are also increasing in the North Western and Southern provinces, he said, though no significant changes have been detected in the hill country or in the Northern Province yet.

Rohana said the numbers being reported are of cases that got positive due to public gatherings and travels right after the restrictions were lifted without adhering to the health guidelines.

“Even if we impose restrictions, the virus is inside the province. Travelling is fine if people follow the guidelines, but the problem is that they don’t,” he said.”

“We don’t expect a rise in the death toll by December because of vaccination, but there may be a rise in cases.”

The current increase is not high, but it can be considered the start of a major increase, said Rohana, noting that the present numbers are of those who got infected around the time restrictions were lifted.

“The result of the past two long weekends will come in another two weeks. It can increaseto an unexpected number,” he said.

Deputy Director of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said people coming from different areas for gatherings and then returning to their respective areas must be avoided.

“We had a similar situation last May and April. After the second wave was contained, public movement increased and the situation turned. Then came the Delta variant and that accelerated the spreading,” Herath told  reporters on Friday (05).

At a meeting held at the Ministry of Health Friday morning, Herath had called for increasing Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).

“This programme has been under way for a long time now. The RAT test is being done for suspected patients coming to hospital. Random RAT tests also will continue,” Herath said.

Meanwhile, PCR testing in Sri Lanka has seen a drop over the past few weeks. Explaining this, Chief Epidemiologist Dr Samitha Ginige said conducting more PCR tests covering the population is not productive.

“When we do a PCR test of a patient, even after four to six months, it can come back positive. But that doesn’t mean that person poses any threat, to close contacts or society at large because the virus does not spread from them,” he said.

Ginige said after taking all the facts in to consideration, the advisory committee has changed the testing policy to meet the requirements of the current situation in identifying patients.

He said apart from doing RAT tests island wide, any person suspected to have symptoms should visit the nearest hospital or Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office and do an RAT test.

“We ask anyone who has symptoms to go to a hospital for a check-up. All MoH offices also do RAT tests on a daily basis. If anyone gets positive, then they will be directed to a treatment centre. If there are people that do have symptoms but doesn’t get positive from RAT test, t hey will be subjected to PCR tests to understand their condition,” said Ginige. (Colombo/Nov05/2021)

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