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Sri Lanka considering local lockdown in Matara following Russian COVID-19 case

ECONOMYNEXT – Health authorities in Sri Lanka are considering a local lockdown to be imposed in the Matara town area following reports that a COVID-19 infected Russian airline crew member had visited a supermarket there.

A senior health official speaking to EconomyNext on grounds of anonymity said a lockdown in Matara is currently being contemplated. The Russian patient and his fellow crew members are said to have moved freely in Matara before being quarantined at the Amaloh boutique resort in Polhena, a popular tourist destination minutes away from the town.

Meanwhile, President of Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka Upul Rohana said local Public Health Inspectors (PHI) or Medical Officers of Health (MOH) were not informed that the crew were to be quarantined at the Polhena hotel.

“They were not supervised by any PHI or MOH officers in the area since they were directed to the hotel without informing anyone,” Rohana told EconomyNext.

The epidemiology unit of the Ministry of Health is supposed to inform local PHIs and MOHs of any transfer of people being quarantined, he said, which allegedly did not happen in this case.

The crew of 15 members had arrived at the Mattala international airport aboard a Russian non-schedule flight on September 13. A 52-year-old male member of the plane’s crew tested positive for the novel coronavirus yesterday. This was discovered during the mandated second PCR test carried out by health authorities before a crew’s departure.

“Normally when an airline comes into the country we conduct PCR tests of the crew at the airport. If they test negative, the crew members can check into a private hotel and stay there until their next flight. Before the day of departure, another PCR test will be conducted to identify any patients,” explained Rohana.

According to the National Operations Center for Prevention for COVID (NOCPOC), the crew was accommodated at a hotel previously owned by Jetwing property in Matara. The flight had first touch-down in India before coming to Sri Lanka.

NOCPOC confirmed that the crew visited supermarkets in the area.

A statement from the Matara police said two of the Russian crew members had taken a three-wheeler to an Arpico supermarket around 11.51 am on September 20 and to a Keells Super at approximately 2.53 pm that same day. Contact tracing is now underway, police said.





Rohana reiterated that the crew was transported to the hotel in question without informing the PHI or MOH in the area.

“We cannot confirm that they did not go anywhere because we were not informed and there was no supervision,” he said.

The Russian COVID-19 patient has been admitted to the Hambantota Hospital.

“Other crew members were taken in by the armed forces. They will be sent to quarantine centres or will be sent back to Russia” Rohana said.

Some 100-150 members of the hotel staff and their family members have been directed to military-run quarantine facilities.

“The hotel staff will be quarantined at the hotel while their family members will be sent to quarantine centres run by the military. The drivers who transported them will be under self-quarantine as well,” said Rohana.

Rohana added that the PHIs and the health authorities are tracing any other contacts of the crew members, hotel staff and the drivers. (Colombo/Sep24/2020-sb)

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  1. The people responsible for this should be delt with and fined and imprisoned for putting so many people at risk.

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