ECONOMYNEXT – COVID-19 infections are on the rise again in Sri Lanka with authorities unable to trace the origin of a majority of daily cases, health officials said on Monday (22), with about 50 percent of active cases currently hospitalised according to government data.
However, the government information department confirmed 31 deaths for Sunday (21), an increase of 11 from the 19 confirmed for the previous day.
Health Services Deputy Director General Dr Hemantha Herath told reporters on Monday that the percentage of cases whose origin cannot be traced is increasing.
The daily caseload has been gradually increasing since Sri Lanka relaxed a lockdown and an inter-province travel ban at the end of October. The information department confirmed 735 new infections for Monday, an increase of 38 from Sunday’s 697.
“Even 700 cases a day is considered a critical situation,” said Dr Herath.
Noting that the support of the public has helped contain the spread of the virus, Herath asked people to persevere and strictly adhere to hygiene guidelines in order to minimise further spread.
The difficulty in tracing the origin of new infections will have no impact on government efforts to contain the virus, he added.
According to the official, 7,460 COVID-19 patients are currently receiving treatment at government hospitals. There were 15,389 active cases as of Sunday. Herath said 67 patients are receiving intensive care unit (ICU) treatment. According to Ministry of Health Acting Director of Tertiary Care Services Dr Ayanthi Karunarathne, 3,800-4,000 patients are treatment under the government’s home based treatment system which was launched in June to free up space in state hospitals for critical patients.
Professor in Medical Education, University of Colombo, Indika Karunathilake, who supervises and provide additional medical support to the home based treatment services in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, said most patients that were under home care have recovered after following medical advice. Only about two percent had to be admitted to hospital for further treatment, he said.
“We have two 24/7 hotlines to assist patients on home based treatment: 247 and 1904,” Karunathilake told reporters on Monday. Nearly 62,000 patients have benefited from the phone assistance service, he said, out of whom only about 2,000 needed hospitalisation.
Karunathilake reiterated that the home care system was largely a success, with most patients showing improvement during the course of their treatment.
“If a patient follows the guidelines after contracting the virus, they can recover without going to a hospital,” he said, though this may be different for patients with underlying conditions.
“From a scientific point of view, our body’s immunity can fight the virus and cure us. So a majority of patients can recover. But a minor number of patients can develop sever disease which is mainly due to other medical conditions,” he said.
Despite the surging numbers, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Education reopened school for grade 6-9 students on Monday.
“It is an achievement itself to be able to open the schools for children,” Dr Herath said.
Sri Lanka started gradually reopening schools in October, initially opening up for primary grade students and followed by GCE ordinary and advanced level classes.
Health officials said, considering the number of students in a class, schools have been advised to continue academic activities both online and physically by dividing up the week for students to come to school.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka received consignment of 1,503,450 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday morning.
So far 15.9 million Sri Lankans have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, while 13.7 million have received both doses. The third, or booster, dose of the Pfizer vaccine has been administered to 265,383 so far. (Colombo/Nov22/2021)