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Sunday July 25th, 2021

Deadly delta: Sri Lanka Medical Association urges president to continue lockdown

ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to continue the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown that is scheduled to be relaxed at 4am June 21.

“Lifting the lockdown even for few days is likely to take us back to the major epidemic situation which prevailed in April and the gains that have been made during the lockdown of the last three weeks will then be sacrificed,” a letter written to President Rajapaksa on June 19 and signed by SLMA President Dr Padma Gunaratne said.

The association had previously called for an extension of the lockdown till June 28 in the face of daily cases still exceeding 2,000, four weeks since curfew-style movement restrictions were imposed islandwide.

The SLMA has called for a gradual relaxation of the lockdown in phases on a district basis after careful analysis of district level realtime data.

The SLMA and the SLMA Inter-Collegiate Committee  are developing an ‘exit strategy’ that will be handed over to the government this week, the letter said.

In the document, the SLMA recommends establishing district-level Committees of Community Physicians to analyse “good quality real-time data” and decide on the level of mobility restriction within the distract on the basis of several relevant criteria.

District level decisions will need guidance from and overall agreement of the Ministry of Health, it added.

The SLMA said though the lockdown has been imperfect, with sections of the population continuing to move about, it has prevented a much larger number of deaths and averted significant suffering. It also prevented the health system, which the SLMA was running at full capacity at the time, from collapsing.

Expressing its disappointment that the lockdown is to be lifted June 21 and temporarily re-imposed from June 23 to 25, the SLMA said the basis for the relaxation is not clear.

“The country is still experiencing more than 2,000 new cases and around 50 deaths every day. To complicate this situation further, there is also evidence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus being prevalent in the community,” the medical association said.

Genome sequencing of five samples collected in Dematagoda, Colombo, earlier this week revealed the presence of the deadly Delta (Indian) strain in the community, a variant said to be 50 percent more transmissible than the current dominant strain B.1.1.7 (UK) and capable of evading single-dose vaccine protection.

Army Commander and head of Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 task force Gen Shavendra Silva announced the travel restrictions that continued for 29 days will be lifted on 21 June barely 24 hours after health authorities announced the detection of the Delta strain.

“We foresee that a release of the current lockdown even for a few days will lead to an uncontrolled free movement of people and would thereby lead to an alarming increase in transmission, with rapid spread of the new variant. The epidemic will thereby escalate to an unprecedented level, causing increasing numbers of causes and unacceptable mortality, on a scale that could completely overwhelm the health system,” the SLMA said. (Colombo/June 20/2021)

Related: How effective has Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 lockdown been?


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