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Government claims Sri Lanka is a “leader” in battling the Covid 19 threat

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi

ECONOMYNEXT-Sri Lanka is a leader in battling the Coronavirus compared to many other countries Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told Parliament today as she closed the day-long debate on the current second wave of infections which has engulfed much of the island.

Thirteen districts in the country have reported cases as of today and 609 new patients were traced today with nearly 500 coming from the Peliyagoda Fish market which is rapidly becoming a new epicentre for the second wave. Fishery harbours in Beruwela and Galle also reported Covid positive cases, the Department of Government Information said.

The Minister claimed that no country in the world maintains quarantine centres or does contact tracing of first and second contacts of an infected patient like in Sri Lanka.

She did not answer a question raised by the National People’s Power leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa whether the spread of the disease is not coming from the community.

The Minister’s Parliamentary colleague Prof Tissa Vitharana, a renown Virologist and former head of the Medical Research Institute, however, said that he is of the opinion that the “virus is in the community.”

Wanniarachchi said that within two to three days of finding the COVID cluster in Brandix the Health Ministry issued updated guidelines to the general public to follow in terms of gatherings and day-to-day lifestyles.

She pointed out that she had Gazetted the regulations making them laws.

The Minister said that most COVID positive patients in Sri Lanka asymptomatic and act as “superspreaders” who can spread the virus to a thousand people by just attending one wedding as that particular person does not know that he or she has the virus.

She also said that even if one or two COVID patients were found in a district the virus did not further spread in the district as all the contacts of the patient were identified and directed to quarantine properly.

“We are dealing with a global pandemic. When we found the first few patients we locked down the entire country but depending on the social and economic conditions now we cannot act in that manner,” she said.

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She said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has informed the Health Ministry about the availability of new WHO-approved vaccine to treat COVID-19 patients in the near future and ask to prepare the country to receive the said vaccine.

Moreover, she said that the government took the decision based on directions given by expert epidemiologists who have experience and understanding how the world had dealt with the virus.

Further, she said that by the time Sri Lanka found its first COVID-19 patient, the country had only one lab to do PCR tests which was the Medical Research Institute (MRI).

“But by March we established 6 labs and by today these tests are done in 26 labs,” she added.

The Health Minister also said that by January the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) had only 150 beds and by March they were able to increase that to 250 beds but by October they were able to arrange 3500 beds to treat patients in 30 hospitals.

Also, she added that the country has managed to increase the capacity to carry out PCR tests per day from 250 in March to 8,000 today and that there is no shortage of PCR test equipment or PPEs. (Colombo/Oct23/2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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