COVID-19 could’ve spread to 13 districts, Sri Lanka chief epidemiologist warns

ECONOMYNEXT – As total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka surged past 6,000 today, Chief Epidemiologist Dr Sudath Samaraweera warned that the virus could have spread to 13 districts in the island including Colombo.

In light of this, authorities are looking to adopt a data-based approach to imposing lockdown measures in affected areas, the country’s COVID-19 prevention task force said this afternoon.

Some 35 police jurisdictions have been put under quarantine curfew under this process, including six police divisions in Colombo, while a further six police areas in Kalutara have been isolated.

According to Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, curfew was imposed in these parts of the country to prevent a possible cross-infection from the Minuwangoda Brandix cluster which has now grown to 2,532.

“When we analysed the spread of the contacts, we saw a possible risk,” Silva told the privately owned Derana television, adding that any curfews will be imposed based on data.

The areas under curfew in Colombo today (22) are Mattakkuliya, Modara, Bloemendal, Grandpass, Wellampitiya and Kotahena police divisions, which were locked down today after 49 fish vendors at the Peliyagoda fish market tested positive for the virus yesterday (21).

Silva said the Kotahena police division was put under curfew from 6pm onwards today after tracing numerous close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients. Silva warned that more patients could be found in that area.

So far, 863 individuals who visited the market have been sent to military-run quarantine centres, the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC) said in a statement today. Of these 863 individuals, 180 were directed to the Diyatalawa quarantine center, 150 to the Kundasale quarantine centre, 192 to the Batticaloa campus quarantine centre, 85 to the Sri Lanka Airforce camp quarantine centre in Palali, Jaffna, 110 to Periyakadu quarantine centre and 68 to another quarantine centre run by the Sri Lanka Army.

The fish vendors were identified after testing 150 persons in the area, NOCPOC said.

The fish market was shut down around mid-morning Wednesday October 21, and about 1,000 persons in the market were quarantined, reports said. It also came to light that several COVID-19 patients from Gampaha had previously visited the market.

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Reports said 21 of the 49 positive cases had come from Gampaha. Authorities had already placed Gampaha under curfew till next Monday.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr Samaraweera said cross infections could be taking place.

Total COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka at the time of writing is at 6,028, with health authorities confirming 50 new patients this afternoon.

Of 50 new cases; 22 are from ‘Next’ and ‘Chiefway’ apparel factories in the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone (FTZ), six from the Peliyagoda fish market, while 22 are close contacts of the Peliyagoda fish market patients.

With the 22 new patients the number of positive cases from the Katunayaka FTZ has increased to 253.

So far, positive cases have been identified at Next, Chiefway, Cosmo Loardstar Ja- Ele, the Customs office Colombo and Micro Pvt Ltd in the FTZ.

Some 341 individuals are currently under investigation in hospitals, with 2,454 active cases.

In the Kalutara district, the villages of Gorokgoda, Beragama, Dapiligoda and Kakulanda North in Agalawatte division and Bellana in Palinda Nuwara division have been isolated.

Over the past 14 days, the ministry of health conducted over 100,000 PCR tests, according to official figures.

As at 6am today, 44 Sri Lankan patients returned home upon recovery, bringing total recoveries in Sri Lanka to 3,501. Of these 44, four are returnees from abroad and 40 are patients from the Minuwangoda cluster. (Colombo/Oct22/2020)

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