ECONOMYNEXT – With daily COVID-19 cases exceeding 800 over the past four days, health authorities have decided to conduct random rapid antigen tests (RATs) in the city of Colombo starting today, the national pandemic task force said.
Tents have been set up at various locations in the city where passing vehicles are stopped at random for a spot RAT. Anyone who tests positive is required to take a follow-up PCR test, officials said.
The random RATs are part of ongoing efforts to detect and contain the virus in the Western Province where a majority of daily cases continue to be reported. Mobile health units operated by the health ministry with military and police assist are continuing to monitor twelve exits out of the province, the task force said.
This is in conjunction with Sri Lanka’s vaccination drive which began last Thursday (28) with some 5,000 frontline workers receiving their first dose of the India-donated Covishield vaccine on the first day. At the time of writing, 59,154 frontline workers in both the health sector and the military have received the jab.
Health Services Deputy Director General Dr Hemantha Herath told EconomyNext that 21,000 personnel in the health sector had been vaccinated as of yesterday (31), adding that the ministry hopes to finish injecting the first dose to a further 100,000 workers by Thursday (04).
Sri Lanka received half a million doses of Covishiled, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, on January 28 as a donation from the Indian government. Vaccination began Friday at four hospitals and two army hospitals in the Western Province. According to Herath, the vaccine has been distributed to over 100 vaccination centres around the island since Saturday (30).
“We are monitoring 80 vaccination centers with a software application, but there are more than 100 vaccination centers island-wide. Some of the provincial centres are starting their vaccinations today, so we can assume the number has been exceeded by now, ” Herath said.
He said no complications have been reported so far apart from some cases of slight fever and headaches which are common symptoms after receiving a vaccine. Reported cases will be supervised by the health authorities, he said.
Army Spokesman Col Vijitha Hettiarachchi told Economy Next that 15,500 army personnel on the frontlines of Sri Lanka’s antii-pandemic efforts received their first dose by January 31. Vaccination continues in 16 army hospitals island-wide, with 2,541 personnel to receive their jab today and a further 31,000 deployed at quarantine centres ,hospitals and temporary treatment centres to be vaccinated in the coming days.
Sri Lanka Navy Spokesman Cap Indika De Silva told EconomyNext frontline navy personnel continue to receive the jab at seven navy hospitals.
“We have vaccinated 2,076 people so far,” he said.
Sri Lanka Air Force media spokesman Group Captain Dushantha Wijesinghe said 500 members in the health teams of the force have been vaccinated from a target group of 1,500. Air Force members in health care teams, quarantine centers and the airport will be vaccinated at 26 air force bases. Wijesinghe said the air force has requested more shots.
Health authorities identified 864 cases in a 24-hour period that ended at 6am today. According to the task force, 362 were from Colombo district, 88 from the Gampaha district and 81 from the Kandy district. Seventeen Sri Lankan returnees from the United Arab Emirates and 10 returnees from South Korea were also among them.
Total cases in Sri Lanka at the time of writing stands at 64,157, with 6,006 active cases. Currently, 767 individuals are under observation, with 316 deaths reported since March last year.
The task force said a total of 57,159 patients have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals and intermediate treatment centers as at today. (Colombo/ Feb 01/2021)
Reported by Chanka Jayasinghe. Edited by Himal Kotelawala.