ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has not decided on a wider Coronavirus lockdown of Gampaha district or the country but contacts of the Brandix factory Covid-19 cluster is being traced and quarantined as authorities are also searching for the original source of the infection, officials said.
The state information office said 220 new cases were confirmed on October 06, taking the total to 321.
By late night on October 05 authorities have confirmed 101 persons from Minuwangoda, Katana, Seeduwa, Divulapitiya, Ja-Ela, Mahara and also Mirigama, Kurunegala and Jaffna as workers on leave from a Brandix apparel factory were tested.
Sri Lanka has made no decision to for a wider lockdown of the country as the cluster around a Brandix apparel factory is traced and quarantined Army Chief Shavendra Silva told Sri Lanka’s Derana TV.
“There was discussion at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday on this but no decision was made for a wider lockdown,” General Silva said.
“Locking down is easy but there is a question of people’s livelihoods.”
“We decided to have curfews on Minuwangoda, Divulapitiya and Veyangoda due to the number of factory personnel who are resident there.”
The state information office said on October 06, the curfew will be imposed on the Gampaha police division from 1800hours.
The government requested all workers of the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda and their family members to stay at home.
“All family members of confirmed Coronavirus patients should get ready to go to quarantine centres,” the statement said.
General Silva said 150 family members of Brandix workers who had gone home had been quarantined by the military.
Brandix had also leased an entire hotel to quarantine more workers under military supervision, he said.
The worker had addresses in Matale, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, Badulla but over the past three weeks, many had not gone home, he said.
Officials have urged residents of Gampaha district to stay at home and avoid non-essential movement and anyone who had visited the Brandix factory to contact authorities.
“We are still in the early stages of identifying infections,” Sri Lanka’s Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera told reporters earlier on October 05.
“We especially asking resident of Gampaha district to limit travel. Stay at home. We have so far put curfew in three police areas. But we are asking residents of other areas to also limit movement.”
“Especially if someone has a cough of fever please get medical treatment. From the action we are taking we can control the cluster and contain the spread of the disease.”
But Gampaha is one of the most densely populated areas in Sri Lanka, which is a concern for authorities, Samaraweera said.
Samaraweera said contacts of the confirmed persons on October 05 are being traced.
“We will have to quarantine and PCR test them as well,” he said. “Then we can see how widespread the cluster is.”
He urged anyone who had visited the Brandix factory to stay at home and inform public health officials of their connection to the factory.
“Then health officials will decide whether the person should be tested or quarantined,” he said.
No Index Case
The cluster around the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda was found as a worker who was treated at Gampaha hospital was randomly tested under a procedure used in state hospital under a protocol followed by health authorities in Sri Lanka.
“We found this cluster due to the net we had cast,” Samaraweera explained. That is a good development.
However the index case of the cluster or the original source of the infection is still not known indicating that there would be other infected persons in the community from whom the disease came to the factory in the first place or other clusters.
“We do not still know how the Covid-19 came to the factory,” Samaraweera said. “We are still investigating it. Therefore there is a risk of the disease spreading in the community. ”
Samaraweera said there was no evidence to say there is community transmission yet, which was a situation where unconnected infected persons were turning up from different locations.
“We cannot say from the evidence have now that there is such a situation,” he said. “Whether it spreads in the community will be decided by future PCR and the co-operation given by the public.”
Meanwhile workers who had gone on leave could also take the disease to other districts.
“There was a long weekend last week so some workers had gone home,” Samaraweera explained. “So there may be more infections in their homes.”
Sri Lanka had confirmed 3,513 Covid-19 cases so far with 13 deaths.
As of October 241 were being treated in hospital, Health Ministry data showed.
Sri Lanka has contact tracing and quarantine process in place which had earlier controlled several clusters.
Sri Lanka has also removed restrictions on conducting PCR tests set by doctors in the early stages of the epidemic in 2020, as well as an inexplicable ban on private testing, increasing the chances of detecting infected persons, analysts say.
General Silva said Sri Lanka had the capacity to test around 4,000 persons a day and about 2,500 to 3,500 tests were done a day.
Random testing was being conducted elsewhere.
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that had controlled the spread of the disease along with Vietnam and Cambodia with isolation activities starting on Chinese arrivals in January, due to close link with the country, ahead of other nations.
Vietnam also saw new cluster expanding out of Da Nang, a tourism hotspot which has a large Chinese community in August, with around over 500 cases being found and 35 persons dying ending the country’s zero death record before it was stamped out.
The outbreak is believed by some to have come from illegal migrants from China.
Some of the deaths came from an infected intensive care unit, where the cluster was discovered. When patients turn up in intensive care a cluster would already have a few hundred infected persons.
The cluster was controlled without a general lockdown, but with lockdown of Da Nang city despite 30,000 holiday-makers being allowed to leave the city. All those who left were asked to register via an app called Bluezone.
Random testing of ICU patients and those with respiratory diseases was ramped up at all hospitals across the country as part of measures to contain the spread, observers familiar with the process say.
Vietnam also held a national high school exam (equivalent of Sri Lanka A/L) with students provided a government issued mask to counter allegations of cheating with a separate exam held later for students in quarantine.
Vietnam controlled the spread of the disease up to May 2020 with surgical lockdowns in of infected clusters, avoiding general strict lockdown curfews but with ‘social isolation’ (stay at home) request, avoiding non-essential movement and school closures backed up by aggressive tracing, testing and quarantine.
Up to May 2020 when restrictions were lifted, Vietnam was the country with the highest tests per detected infected person in the world.