Atalugama COVID-19 cases surge as PHIs withdraw in protest
ECONOMYNEXT – Eighty percent of the rapid antigen tests carried out in Atalugama, Bandaragama, came back positive as Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in the area withdrew from duties in protest after a resident spat at them, a spokesman for the PHI union said.
PHI Union Secretary Mahendra Balsooriya told EconomyNext that some residents in Atalugama were not following health guidelines and self-quarantine regulations, which has led to a rapid spread of the virus in the area.
“Atalugama is a high risk zone. When we were conducting PCR tests there, we realised there were a lot of positive cases in the area. We were doing rapid antigen tests there as well,” he said.
Balasooriya claimed that following an incident in the village, PHIs were forced to withdraw from duties, which he said will further complicate the situation.
According to the union secretary, when PHIs had arrived in ambulances to direct some COVID-19 patients to treatment, one resident who had been instructed to self-quarantine had gone to another house in area where had, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, tried to obstruct the PHIs from carrying out their duties.
“Our officers tried to send home back home reminding him that he should be in self-quarantine. When our officers tried to return, the man spat at them,” said Balasooriya, adding that the PHIs in question have been sent off toa 14-day quarantine.
The incident has local PHIs to withdraw in protest.
“If the residents are not willing to cooperate, the number of cases can go up as well as the number of deaths.” Balasooriya warned. He urged community leaders and religious leaders in Atalugama to advise the residents to take PCR tests and to self-quarantine where necessary.
“No such person has yet come forward to support the officers in the area to carry out the tests,” Balasooriya said.
According to the latest test results, he further said, the virus has spread rapidly among Atalguma residents.
“We have conducted more than 400 antigen tests and over 300 of those tests came back positive,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPC )said 98 new cases were identified in Atalugama bringing the total cases in the area to 300.
“Eighty to 90 percent tests have come back It is a very dangerous situation,” said Balasooriya.
“We are struggling because we have no substitute officers to assist to handle the test in place of the PHIs who have pulled out,” he added.
Balasooriya further said some residents’ refusal to follow health guidelines could lead to the virus spreading throughout the country. Citizens following the guidelines and cooperating with the health officials is the main way to reduce the number of positive cases in the country, he added.
Sri Lanka’s total patient count has increased to 25,410, with 6,982 active cases and 467 under investigation in hospitals.
As at 6am today, 487 Sri Lankan patients returned home upon recovery, bringing total recoveries in Sri Lanka to 18,304. (Colombo/Dec 03/2020)