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74 new COVID-19 patients in Sri Lanka; total cases rise to 5,244

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan health officials identified 74 new COVID-19 patients over a 24-hour period that ended at 6am today (16), the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC) said.

Of the 74 patients, six are returnees from abroad –  three having returned from the UAE and two being sailors and one coast guard.

The other patients identified are close contacts of the Brandix Minuwangoda employees from different parts of the country.

With the new cases, total confirmed COVID-19 patients in the island has risen to 5,244. Some 322 individuals are currently under investigation in hospitals, with 1,851 active cases.

Twenty-three Sri Lankan patients returned home upon recovery as at 6am today bringing total recoveries in Sri Lanka to 3,380.

Out of 23 recovered patients, seven are returnees from abroad while 16 are patients from the Minuwangoda cluster.

The number of patients reported from the Minuwangoda cluster increased to 1,791, with the new 68 positive cases being identified.

NOCPOC reports showed that after the first positive case of the Divulapitiya cluster was discovered by health authorities on October 03, within first week the cluster increased to 1186 and by October 16 to 1,791 with 1,041 employees and 750 close contacts being identified as positive cases.

By this morning, 12 returnees arrived in Colombo, all of whom flew in from Sydney, Australia, NOCPOC said, adding that all returnees will be directed to military-run quarantine centres.

Some 397 people ended their quarantine at military-run centres yesterday, according to NOCPOC. A total of 53,011 people have completed quarantine so far.

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NOCPOC said so far Sri Lanka government has provided quarantine facilities to 43,440 returnees.

According to official figures, 1,457 returnees to the island have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while 79 foreigners have also been identified so far by authorities as COVID-19 positive cases.

Meanwhile, the number of people in quarantine in 84 centres run by the armed forces has increased to 9,556.

A total of 365,859 PCR tests have been conducted in the island so far, with 6,543 tests carried out yesterday. NOCPOC reports said, adding that the results of some PCR tests are still pending.

Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Unit Doctor Sudath Samaraweera said PCR tests of all employees at the Minuwangoda Brandix apparel plant have been completed. Health officials are continuing to test close contacts of the employees and other residents in the Minuwangoda area.

Sri Lanka as at October 16 records 13 COVID-19 related deaths.

Officials said the COVID-19 Prevention Task Force is currently investigating three-clusters of possible novel coronoavirus patients related to the discovery of the patient in Divulapitiya, and, as of now, 1,083 cases have been discovered so far in these clusters.

The towns of Minuwangoda, Divulapitiya, Veyangoda, Gampaha, Kirindiwela, Dompe, Pugoda, Ganemulla, Weeragula, Weliweriya, Malwathuhiripitiya, Nittambuwa, Meerigama, Pallewela, Yakkala, Ja-ela, Seeduwa and Kandana Police areas are still under police curfew.

Aththanagalla and Meerigama divisional secretary areas as well as Maligathanna, Kurigama and Eluwapitiya villages have also been locked down with new patients being discovered in those areas.

However, curfew was lifted this morning for the residencies to get supplies and medicines.

Police curfew was imposed in Katunayaka area from yesterday after COVID-19 infected patients were found in the Katunayake free trade zone (FTZ), Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva said.

Some apparel manufacturing companies located in the Katunayaka free trade zone reduced the number of employees working at a given time following the discovery of new patients at the Brandix Seeduwa plant, Next Manufactures and ATG company, a surgical gloves manufacturing company.

NOCPOC said after several patients were discovered from several factories in the Free Trade Zone, health authorities increased the number of PCR tests conducted in the free trade zone (FTZ).

The Board of Investment has also requested all export companies in the Katunayaka FTZ to direct five percent of their employees to PCR tests.

Hospitals in Minuwangoda, Welikanda, Iranawila, Rambukkana, Kamburugamuwa, Kattankudi, Hambanthota, Theldeniya, Mulleriyawa, as well as the Infectious Diseases Hospital and the Neville Fernando Hospital and the Homagama, Ambalpola and Laggala, Pallegama hospitals have been taken over by the health services department to treat COVID-19 patients.

Sri Lanka Police have asked all the companies in Sri Lanka to update the employment records of the staff with the current addresses and telephone numbers so that workers can be tracked down quickly in a situation. (Colombo/Oct16/2020)

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