Sri Lanka doctors call for 14-day lockdown, Covid-19 deaths spiral up

Sri Lanka should go for a 14- day lockdown without a break in the middle to stop the Coronavirus pandemic spiraling further as undetected daily COVID-19 cases could be three times what PCR testing now show, doctors said.

Sri Lanka identified 3,547 patients on May 21 of which 3,538 were domestic. A day earlier, out of 3,443, 822 were from the Gampaha district. Some 674 patients were identified from Colombo and 287 patients were identified from Kalutara district.

Sri Lanka reported 44 Coronavirus deaths on May 21, up from single digit level in early April when new infections were below. Doctors had said current deaths reflected infections taken place up to a month earlier. Deaths were in the 30s last week.

“All government hospitals have been filled with Covid patients as well as ICUs,” Sri Lanka Medical Association, President, Doctor Padma Gunaratne told reporters on May 21.

“When we identify 3000 plus patients a day, the amount of Covid patients in the society is 10,000 or more than three times the daily identified patients.

“We can’t expect inter-district travel restriction will help to control the situation when patients are reporting from every district.

“Due to the delay in PCR tests, we isolate a Grama Niladhari division with a delay of seven days. And by that time the decease had spread past the GN division. Therefore, only by isolating GN divisions, we can’t expect to control the situation.”

The government announced an island-wide lockdown from 2300hours on May 21 to 0400hours on May 25 and again from 2300hours that day to 0400h on May 28.

The 17-hour window on May 25 during what will otherwise be a curfew-style unofficial lockdown is for people to gather supplies. Restrictions will be re-imposed that at 11pm on May 25 till 4am May 28.

“A three day curfew won’t help it if we give a break in the middle,” Gunaratne said. “When we give that people will start gathering again and it will again spread the disease. Therefore we don’t recommend giving a break like that. Going for a 14-day lockdown is the best.”

She said locking down the country at the moment will affect the economy in a positive way than in a negative way.

Consultant Pediatrician and SLMA member Lakkumar Fernando said expanding hospital beds is not a solution as patient numbers were going up daily.

“Suppose we make 10,000 beds for patients at the moment, at this rate we will need to keep making 10,000 beds every two days.”

He said the travel restrictions imposed in the past few days by the authorities did not help to decrease the number of patients and there was no scientific basis behind the restrictions.

Sri Lanka is now seeing a little fewer than 40 deaths a day, based on daily numbers of about 1,500 a day in late April. The SLMA had previously said current deaths are based on infections that took place about four weeks earlier.

“Don’t open the country on 25, and continue it for 14 days,” Fernando said. “Because in the future there can be 100 deaths per day, and we can avoid it if we do that today.”

President of the Public Health Inspector Union, Upul Rohana told reporters that though a three day restriction won’t support to reverse the situation, however if the restrictions continued, it will help control the New Year Coronavirus wave.

“Imposing lock down was delayed so far and we think they should have imposed it earlier,” Rohana said.

“We don’t think the three-day restriction is enough to stop or control this wave, but it is a good start

“People will struggle but for the betterment of the country we ask everyone to cope with situation for a few days”

Meanwhile, the Director of Disaster Preparedness and Response Division of the Health Ministry Hemantha Herath told media sufficient beds are in hospitals to treat the patients.

“We run the system in a way where we can keep treating patients who have other diseases as well in all our main hospitals” Herath said.

Sri Lanka should go for a 14- day lockdown without a break in the middle to stop the Coronavirus pandemic spiraling further as undetected daily COVID-19 cases could be three times what PCR testing now show, doctors said.

He said, sufficient amount of oxygen is in store.

“But if the demand increased in the future, MOH has already taken precautions to cover that.”

President Gotababya Rajapaksa had instructed the health authorities at meeting Friday, if a test conducted at either a government or a private entity was positive, the responsibility of treating the patient should also be given to the institution that did the test, a statement said.


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