Kegalle PHIs contest official COVID-19 figures for district

ECONOMYNEXT – Local public health inspectors (PHIs) in the Kegalle district are contesting the official COVID-19 figures released for that district by the national pandemic task force.

Since the emergence of the second wave, from October 3 to December 27, health officials have found 876 cases in the Kegalle district, Kegalle PHI Kumara Weerasinghe told Economy Next. If accurate, this figure is significantly higher than the 338 cases documented by the national COVID-19 task force.

“On December 25, 42 people tested positive. On December 26, we found 43 patients and on December 27, 53 patients,” said Weerasinghe.

Four deaths were recorded in the district yesterday, he added.

Weerasinghe said 11 teams under the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) and six teams under represented by the PHI Union have been conducting PCR tests in the Kegalle district.

The RDHS, confirming the PHI data, said 930 patients have been reported as at December 29 with 54 patients reported within the past 24 hours.

“We update the figures daily – on holidays as well as on Weekends. We also note the difference in the figures we give out and the figures being [officially] published,” sources from the RDHS said on condition of anonymity.

The RDHS sources told EconomyNext that the contradictory figures have put local health authorities in a difficult position as residents come to the RDHS seeking permission to hold events citing the officially low figures.

According to data released by the National Operation Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC), the official task force, only two new patients were reported yesterday. However the RDHS sources confirmed that 54 patients were reported within a 24-hour period that ended at 0600 am today.

Asked for comment, NOCPOC Spokesman Col Vijitha Hettiarachchi told EconomyNext that the task force publishes data it receives from the Health Ministry’s epidemiology unit.

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“We will have to go through the situation update reports we have published and see whether there is a difference. The relevant data is published by the epidemiology unit,” he said.

PHI Weerasinghe said currently 4,867 close contacts in the district are in home quarantine and 18,578 have completed their quarantine.

Health authorities identified 22 new COVID-19 cases at an apparel factory in Kegalle over the past two weeks. Some 300 close contacts of the patients have been directed to home quarantine, Weerasinghe said.

“In Thulhiriya, Kegalle, there are seven factories that operate under different brands. We were able to identify 22 patients from one of these factories by conducting PCR tests over the past two weeks.”

Weerasinghe said the factory remains in operation but will be shut down if the number of patients further increases over the next few days.

The patients have been directed to Warakapola, Rambukkana, Undugoda and NiwunHella treatment centres and PCR tests are continuing in other factories to identify new patients.

“We found five more patients atan apparel factory in Rambukkana and have identified over 45 first-contacts of those patients as well,” he said.

According to Weerasinghe, workers at the factories in Ruwanwella, Dehiowita and Awissawella areas are the most affected.

“From the start of the second wave we have identified more than 200 COVID-19 positive employees and contacts from these factories,” he said. (Colombo/Dec29/2020)

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