GMOA issues warning to public: follow advice on COVID19 or face a calamity
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-sector union of Medical Doctors is warning that when the currently imposed restrictions are lifted the country could progress to the next stage of the COVID19 pandemic.
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) in a paper presented to the government says “it can be assumed that between the period of March 25 and April 7 if social distancing is not carried out, the numbers (of those infected with COVID19) will face a rapid increase.”
However if “the citizens of Sri Lanka follow through with the health advice that is given, we can assume that there will be a favourable outcome in the subsequent two weeks.”
The paper submitted on Tuesday laid out the four stages of COVID-19 as defined by the World Health Organisation.
Stage one No Cases > Stage Two Sporadic Cases > Stage three (a) Home Clusters > (b) Small Groups of clusters > Stage four Community transmission.
Up to stage three, the disease has been transmitted to someone in Sri Lanka directly from a person who has come to this country from another.
That is why arrivals in Sri Lanka have been stopped by sea and air and those who do come, go directly to quarantine for 14 days.
The GMOA says that Sri Lanka is in Stage Three (a) or “Home Clusters” where a member of a household had contracted the disease from someone who has come from overseas and then infected those close to him or her.
The GMOA says that Sri Lanka is at this stage.
The next stage is when the virus spreads beyond that cluster and creates a group of clusters.
The fourth and most serious stage is when the disease is present in the community and begins to spread on a wider scale.
Director-General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe does not believe Sri Lanka has reached Community Transmission as yet.
The current regime of curfews, isolation, group quarantine and self-quarantine are efforts aimed at preventing Sri Lanka from going into stage four.
It is at stage four that countries have seen an exponential growth of cases, an explosion of the numbers if you will, which can cause havoc, overwhelming health services and sending the country into an uncontrollable spin.
At present, a little over 20,000 people are believed to have been exposed to the disease and they are under medical observation by Public Health officials, Police and Military and the District Administrations.
The GMOA paper also said that COVID19 patients can be broken up into two significant groups. Those who are Confirmed Cases who have got a “Plus” in a polymerase chain reaction test or PCR and those who are called “true” cases who have not been tested or have not yet sought medical attention.
As of today, according to the Health Promotion Bureau, 102 patients have been confirmed by PCR testing.
The GMOA says that based on based on estimates in Hubei in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, the number of True Cases should be 8 times of the Current Confirmed Cases.
The GMOA said that of the 102 Confirmed cases, 32 are from those who arrived at the airport and quarantined directly and 69 from the community. “Therefore, it can be technically assumed that at present, 550 infected individuals are circulating within the population. A portion of this 550 maybe under either in quarantine centres or under home quarantine.
If movement freely takes place (no social distancing), one individual can infect 500 others within 30days; in 50% social distancing, one individual can infect 15 others, thus by 70% social distancing the ability to infect others is 2.5 per one infected person within 30days the paper said.
“Therefore it is important to note that if the curfew is lifted, social distancing will be considerably affected,” it warned.
The doctors warned if the advice is not followed through by the public; “health care workers would have to be subjected to quarantine due to exposure to infected persons and thus cause a considerable decline in human resources.” (Colombo, March 25.2020)
Kithmina Hewage- Institute of Policy Studies