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COVID-19 would’ve been present in the community: MRI Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – The novel coronavirus has been in the community for the past few months and the risk of spread has now increased, Sri Lanka’s Medical Research Institute  (MRI) officials said.

MRI Director Dr Jayaruwan Banadara told a private television news network this morning that the virus has been in the community for the past few months outside the clusters identified by the health officials.

“There is a danger in this situation,” Bandara told Derana TV.

“From January to now this virus has been present in the community somehow,” he said.

Bandara said it is unlikely that the COVID-19 patient found in Divulapitiya yesterday after two months of no new cases reported outside the identified clusters if there was no patients already in the community.

“How else could we have found a patient now?” Bandara said.

He further said citizens should be aware of the situation and should start following the health guidelines issued by the health authorities.

“We do not know whether these patients or any of their contacts came to our environment or not,” he added.

Sixty-nine direct contacts of yesterday’s patient tested positive for COVID-19 today.

All 69 patients are coworkers of the apparel factory where the patient from Divulapitiya worked.

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A 16-year-old daughter of the Divulapitiya patient also tested positive for the virus, while the patient’s husband and other children tested negative.

“All the citizens must understand that now is not the time for any protests or other activities but to go back to prevention methods we followed the first time around. We don’t know where we’ll find the next patient,” Bandara said.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Inspectors Union said the garment factory has over 1,300 employees, of whom over 700 individuals have been directly associating with the patient.

PHI Union Secretary M Balasooriya told EconomyNext that more PCR tests are being conducted on these workers.

Balasooriya added that children and academic staff of the daughter’s school will also be directed to PCR tests today.

“Her daughter is in the 11th grade and there will be a special seminar for all students and teachers in her class conducted by health officials. We will also perform PCR tests on them,” he said.

The patient was admitted to hospital on October 3 by the apparel company due to difficulties in breathing.

“She had been suffering with these symptoms for a certain period,” PHI Union Chairman Upul Rohana said.

“We have also identified several other coworkers who were suffering from the same symptoms. We urge everyone who associated her within the past week to inform the relevant PHIs immediately.”

Balasooriya said several employees of the factory had gone to their home on vacation.

“These employees are from Jaffna, Ampara, Galle, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and many other districts. Some have been identified and directed to self-quarantine but there are many more we have yet to identify.”

“We have found two individuals from Kurunegela with symptoms. We have sent them to Kurunegala hospital for further studies,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 3,471 with the new patients discovered today.

Health officials are currently tracing the contacts of the Divulapitiya patient under three identified clusters: the Brandix cluster where the patient worked, the

Gampaha hospital where she was warded for a respiratory ailment and her hometown in the Divulapitiya area. (Colombo/Oct05/ 2020)

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