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Thursday June 30th, 2022

COVID-19 hospitalisations rise in Sri Lanka as booster vials gather dust

ECONOMYNEXT – The number of COVID-19 patients in Sri Lanka who need to be given oxygen has increased, health authorities said raising alarm over a sharp rise in cases and hospitalisations as the expiration date of millions of unused boosters draws ever closer.

Sri Lanka recorded 877 new infections on Monday (24), marking the sixth consecutive day of over 800 new cases. Total cases in Sri Lanka now stand at 602,763 with 11,126 active cases. With 14 deaths confirmed on Monday, the death toll from the disease has increased to 15,313.

Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath told reporters last week that a gradual rise in cases was expected in the coming weeks given the increase in public movement over the January 14-17 long weekend.

Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Chairman Upul Rohana told reporters on Monday that symptomatic cases and hospitalisations have gone up around the country. He warned that the numbers will continue to rise and likely lead to a situation similar to the second wave of the epidemic.

Deputy Director of the Colombo National Hospital Dr Chandana Gajanayaka confirming Rohana’s statement told reporters on Monday that COVID-19 admissions to the hospital has increased over the past week.

“A number of staff members have also been infected,” he said, noting that the national hospital is now focused on facilitating the rising admissions.

“We now have to prioritise COVID-19 patients over those who need surgery and other patients.  The number of patients that need oxygen has increased as well. This is not a good situation,” he said.

Ministry of Health, Medical Technical Services Director, Anwar Hamdani told reporters last week that the COVID-19 patients who need oxygen has increased by five percent island wide by the third week of January.

Meanwhile, health officials continue to urge the public to get the initial vaccines and if eligible to take the booster dose without delay.

“Please take it, because data indicates that the number of patients are increasing,” said Gajanayaka.

Health officials on Monday started to administer the second dose for children between 16-19 years of age.

State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said the booster dose stock in store will expire by July 2022.

“We purchased around 14 million booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and only close to five million have been distributed so far,” he said.

“If the public refuses to take the booster dose now, it will expire by July 2022.”

Dr Shermila De Silva of the Ragama Teaching Hospital said a majority of COVID-19 deaths were due to factors such as age, comorbidities, being unvaccinated or being partially vaccinated.

“In the past, we treated around 10,000 patients, and over 500 people died. Most of them died due to these reasons,” she said.

“We had an interval of three months after the second wave, but we can see a gradual increase in patients,” she said noting, however, that hospitals still have capacity to treat patients.

Silva said, the increase was due to several reasons including the Omicron variant, which said to be highly transmissible than delta and a minority of the general public not following the guidelines.

“We have been in this situation for about two years. We are always urging the public to follow basic health guidelines, but there are still people who do not listen,” Silva said, urging the public to ignore the misinformation and get the booster. (Colombo/Jan25/2022)

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