ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka does not intend to impose an island-wide curfew from Christmas to New Year’s Day, Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva said.
“There is some false news circulating on WhatsApp citing a popular media network saying that quarantine curfew will be imposed island wide from midnight tonight (24) till January 02. This is not true,” Silva, who is also the head of the national COVID-19 task force told the privately owned Derana network this morning.
The army chief accused unnamed parties of irresponsibly attempting to sabotage Sri Lanka’s pandemic containment efforts. Actions against these individuals will be taken in due course, he said.
“We have no intention of putting the whole country under curfew,” he reiterated.
On a separate note, Silva said Sri Lankans who arrive in the country aboard cargo and scheduled flights will no longer need Foreign Ministry approval to enter the country. Special repatriation flights that operate under SriLankan Airlines will continue under the supervision of the ministry, he said.
“There are two ways for Sri Lankans to return from abroad. One is aboard a SriLankan Airlines repatriation flight which arrives once or twice a day. This is mainly for people stuck in the Middle East and other countries. It is carried out with the supervision of the foreign ministry, the COVID-19 task force and the Sri Lankan high commissions in those countries.
“Others are scheduled flights and cargo flights. We have approximately seven to eight such flights in operation. The foreign Ministry said these flights will not need its permission, something that’s not applicable to other flights,” said Silva.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka halted inbound flights from the UK earlier this week in the wake of a new variant of the novel coronavirus being discovered there. The army chief said passengers and crew from the last flights from the UK that arrived in Sri Lanka have been directed to a quarantine facility for 14 days of isolation.
“When we took the decision there was a flight already returning from the UK. Another flight was already in the UK. We have directed the crew and all passengers for a 14-day quarantine and they will be under the supervision of health authorities,” he said.
Silva further said Rapid Antigen Tests to identify any Covid 19 positive patients leaving the Western Province will be continued until further notice.
The National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC) said 17 new patients were identified using rapid antigen tests carried out over the past few days.
Sri Lanka’s health authorities have conducted a total of 1,152,629 PCR tests including 13,895 tests conducted yesterday. NOCPOC said results of 1,464 PCR tests are still pending.
“There are about 17 exits from Colombo to leave Western Province. Starting today onwards we will conduct rapid antigen tests covering all those areas. It will be done randomly. We did it in four main exits in the past few days,” said Silva.
Meanwhile the Laksanda Sewana housing scheme in Wellampitiya will be released from isolation today, while the Abeyapura and Dinanagar areas in Trincomalee will be isolated from today until further notice.
Health authorities found 580 COVID-19 cases during a 24-hour period that ended at 0600 hours today (24), NOCPOC said. A majority of them were found in the western province. 228 in the Colombo district, 108 in Gampaha and 68 in Kalutara.
NOCPOC said 49 inmates from Mahara prison, 15 inmates from Dalupotha prison, seven inmates from
Bogambara prison and one inmate from Boossa prison are among the newly identified patients.
There are 3,300 COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment at 41 hospitals, the task force said, while 4,937 are receiving treatment at intermediate COVID-19 treatment centres set up by the army.
With the new patients, Sri Lanka records a total of 38,639 patients with 8,573 active cases and 536 individuals currently under investigations in hospitals.
NOCPOC said 582 patients returned home upon recovery bringing the total recovered patients number to 29,882.
Sri Lanka recorded another COVID-19 death by this morning, bringing the total pandemic deaths in the country to 184. (Colombo/Dec 24/2020)