Aggressive measures to prevent community transmission of COVID19 introduced

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka today moved aggressively to prevent community transmission of the COVID 91 virus by banning public gatherings, shutting down cinemas and closing university hostels as the number of people positively identified as infected by the novel coronavirus rose to 9.

Most Churches will not have services tomorrow and  public gatherings are banned.

“This is for a two week period, and we ask the public to cooperate with us,” Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told reporters in Colombo.

The country’s top Health Official Dr Anil Jasinghe said that up to now all those infected had been people who had had contact with foreigners either in Sri Lanka or overseas.

“We want to prevent local community transmission which is the next stage of the disease and the measures being introduced today are aimed at that,” the Director-General of Health Services said.

The country has now banned flights from most European countries, Iran and South Korea. Saudi Arabia has already cut-off flights and Sri Lanka added Qatar and Bahrain to the list today.

It appeared that Sri Lankans in Italy were also trying to escape that country as Health Services were overshelmed.

Jasinghe said that two Sri Lankans who wer not allowed to board an aircraft home from Milan had driven 800 kilometres and taken Paracetomol to lower body temperature and arrived here.

“They were taken to quarantine and detected positive for CIVD19 there,” he said. 

“We see the Schengen countries as the most affected at present,” Jasinghe said.

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“Because of the flight ban we hope no newly infected people will come, and we want to take advantage of that gap to prevent community transmission,” Jasinghe said.

“We are yet to have a domestic transmission of the disease, all the infections have come from contacts with foreigners,” he said.

Seven of the infected patients are being treated in government-run hospitals at present while the first patient, a Chinese tourist has recovered and since gone home.

Most of them are at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH) near Colombo. Others are in specialized units set up in larger hospitals in major urban centres.

Government spokesmen said that police would no longer issue permits for public events and cinema halls had been persuaded to shut their doors.

With Parliamentary General Elections due in six weeks, this decision would put dampen the country’s usual election campaign which usually features large rallies.

Last week Jasinghe issued an appeal to the country to cancel public gatherings but some political leaders continued to hold meetings until last night.

The first two Sri Lankan patients, both men working in the tourism industry, are believed to have been infected by their clients who were from Italy. “They have since left the country,” Jasinghe said.

Co-Cabinet spokesman Media Minister Bandula Gunewardene also announced that the National Task Force created for coronavirus prevention will be setting up a new office on Monday in Rajagiriya.

The Task Force he said would be operating under the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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