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Brandix cluster passes 1,000 confirmed cases in Sri Lanka’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak yet

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is battling a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a fresh cluster that emerged over the weekend around an apparel factory now moving past 1,000 confirmed cases – the single largest yet in the island.

The number of COVID-19 positive cases detected at the Brandix plant in Minuwangoda, Gampaha, rose to 1,022 a short while ago, with 190 new patients identified as at 2pm today (07), the National Operating Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC) said. A 39-year-old supervisor at the Brandix factory tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the early hours of Sunday (04). Aggressive testing of the employee’s direct contacts has subsequently confirmed the spread of the disease within the factory. Authorities have yet to determine where the supervisor contracted the virus.

With the new cases, total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the island has risen to 4,442 since March this year. Some 140 individuals are currently under investigation in hospitals with 1,163 active cases.

At least one health official has confirmed community transmission of the virus in Sri Lanka. Former Medical Research Institute (MRI) Director Dr Jayaruwan Banadara told a private television news network on Monday (06) that the virus had been in the community for the past few months outside the clusters identified by the health officials. Dr Bandara was removed from his position as MRI Director yesterday, but no official reason was given.

Sri Lanka had managed to largely contain the spread of the virus, with no confirmed reports of community transmission until this week. The country held a parliamentary election in August with a 76% turnout and no reports of an outbreak as a result.

Source: NOCPOC, sent before the time of writing

Of the total 1,163 active cases in the island as of today, 132 are Sri Lankans repatriated from abroad.

The number of confirmed cases from the Brandix cluster appears to be growing rapidly as testing continues. A Brandix employee from the company’s Welisara plant also tested positive a short while ago, a spokesman said.

In other related developments, a member of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) janitorial staff also tested positive for the virus earlier today. A BIA official told EconomyNext that all staff will under go PCR testing today. Army chief and head of the pandemic task force Lt Gen Shavendra Silva told reporters a short while ago that the BIA staffer had visited a Brandix hostel in Minuwangoda, where apparel workers who are now undergoing treatment for the virus had been staying. The Colombo Golf Club, too, temporarily closed down its operations today following the daughter of a gardener testing positive for COVID-19.

Police curfew has been imposed in 18 police areas in the Gampaha district. Authorities have yet to announce lockdown measures in other parts of the country including the Colombo district, though PCR tests are being conducted at the Brandix headquarters in Colombo 03. The human resource team at the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda is said to have visited the Kollupitiya head office, though no staff member has tested positive yet, a NOCPOC spokesman said.

Meanwhile, health authorities are seeking public assistance in tracking down a COVID-19 infected patient who has allegedly gone missing from the Ragama hospital this morning.

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The patient, a resident of Peliyagoda, had come to the Ragama hospital requesting a PCR test and subsequently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By the time hospital staff had reached him to obtain personal information for contact tracing purposes, the patient had disappeared from the hospital premises, an official said. (Colombo/Oct07/2020)

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