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Monday June 27th, 2022

Sri Lanka confirms highest daily COVID-19 deaths yet; lockdown calls grow louder

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka confirmed its highest daily COVID-19 death toll yet on Thursday (19) at 186 deaths along with 3,806 new infections, as calls for a lockdown grow ever louder from both within and without the establishment.

COVID-19 has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in Sri Lanka, with the fast-spreading delta variant blamed for the spike in deaths and cases in a devastating third wave that officially began mid-April 2021.

Active cases have surged past 48,000, overwhelming and exhausting the country’s health sector, prompting experts and on-the-ground public health inspectors (PHIs) to warn of a complete collapse of the system if the situation is not contained.

Though vaccination in Sri Lanka has progressed at a remarkable pace, the virus continues to spread far and wide, infecting thousands a day. According to one expert who has been calling for increased testing, the actual number may be anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 daily cases.

As case numbers grow, so do calls for a lockdown.

Ten constituent parties of the ruling coalition wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday requesting a lockdown of three weeks minimum to contain the growing COVID-19 epidemic.

Key players in the government including Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudewa Nanayakkara had signed the letter, urging for measures to bring the daily caseload down to a manageable level.

Related: Ten constituent parties of Sri Lanka ruling alliance call for three-week lockdown

The chief Buddhist prelates of Sri Lanka also called for one-week lockdown the same day.

Earlier this month, a group of experts convened by World Health Organisation (WHO) Sri Lanka earnestly recommended swift and stringent mobility restrictions to save some 18,000 lives by January 2022.

Despite repeated calls from various quarters for tighter restrictions, the government has been resolute in its position that a lockdown proper is not the answer, choosing instead to impose curfew from 10am to 4am and introduce limited restrictions such as banning indoor events and public gatherings.

Regardless, a lockdown mood appears to have taken over the country, with traffic having been visibly thinned in some of the otherwise busier streets of the country’s main cities and towns.

Meanwhile, a number of trade unions have threatened a 10-day self-imposed lockdown starting next Monday (23) if the government doesn’t announce a lockdown by Friday (20), even as businesses in at least 31 towns across the island have already suspended operations in the face of rising daily deaths and cases.

Related: Trade union warns of lockdown action as Sri Lanka loses another 171 lives

Speculation has been building that a lockdown of some sort is imminent, but the government has yet to confirm or deny this. (Colombo/Aug19/2021)

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