ECONOMYNEXT – No political influence was used in the sudden lifting of a lockdown in Piliyandala, Sri Lanka, amid a COVID-19 outbreak, co-cabinet spokesman Minister Ramesh Pathirana said.
The Piliyandala police division was isolated last Saturday (01) reportedly due to a high incidence of COVID-19 cases in the area, only for the isolation to be lifted the next day. However, Dampe, Batakeththara North, Pellanwatta West and East, Kesbewa South, Makandana East, Mawiththara North, and Madapatha, Grama Niladhari divisions were isolated again starting from Monday.
All decisions with regard to lockdowns and isolations are taken by the national COVID-19 task force, said Pathirana.
Meanwhile, denying allegations that he had ordered the lifting of the lockdown, Minister and local MP Gamini Lokuge told reporters yesterday that he had merely asked that local authorities reconsider the situation.
“No one in this area knew it would be locked down. Intelligence reports had concluded that there was no need to lock down the entire area. So we asked them to re-evaluate the situation and to relax the restrictions if possible,” said Lokuge.
The minister said his constituents including vendors at the Piliyandala market were facing difficulties due to the lockdown. He claimed health officials had lifted the isolation in some of the divisions after consulting intelligence who had been engaged in contact tracing.
“I have no reason to influence health officials. But as the parliamentarian representing this area, I have a right to speak up for my constituents if they’re being inconvenienced. I was merely exercising that right,” he said.
However, Kesbewa Medical Officer of Health Dr Samanthika Wijesundara, under whose purview the Piliyandala police division comes, said the isolation was lifted without informing her.
“I requested Director General of Health Services in writing to lock down the entire Piliyandala area. It was lifted without warning me,” Wijesundara told reporters yesterday.
“I maintain that the lockdown must be re-imposed to contain the spread of the virus,” she added.
Wijesundara claimed the authorities take decisions regarding lockdowns looking only at officially detected cases without considering potential threats.
“There are many patients going around in the area who have yet to be tested,” she said.
The MOH claimed that some 100 patients are still at home due to a delay in hospital admission as ambulances have been overrun. The delay can cause household deaths from COVID-19, she warned.
Chairman of the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Upul Rohan called for temporary treatment centres where COVID-19 patients can get medical attention until a hospital slot is available.
“This will help in reduce household deaths,” he said. (Colombo/May04/2021)