ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan authorities are doing their best to prevent an outbreak of COVID 19 in a drug rehabilitation centre from spreading into the community, the country’s Chief of Armed Forces has said.
Army Commander Lt General Shavendra Silva said the investigation as to how inmates of the facility in Kandakadu in the Polonnaruwa district became infected is still on-going.
Silva, who is heading the country’s National Operations Center for Prevention of COVID 19, said it is “possible that we find more cases in the Kandakadu facility.”
He revealed that several addicts who had been found COVID 19 positive and were quarantined in Army-run centres had been brought for rehabilitation to Kandakadu after 14 days.
“At that time they had tested negative for the virus,” he said.
The probe began after an inmate of the rehabilitation centre tested positive for the Coronavirus when he was checked at the main Welikada Prison in the capital Colombo where he had been moved for a court hearing.
Some 200 fellow inmates in Welikada were tested and were found negative but tests at Kandakadu found 56 COVID 19 positive cases.
One Woman Counsellor from Kandakadu who was on leave was also tested and found positive and her family members in Marawila have now been quarantined, Silva said.
Eight other staff members who had gone home are being brought back to Kandakadu, Silva who is the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces said.
“The President and the Prime Minister have asked us to take all possible steps to prevent this outbreak from going into the community at large,” he told Media in a video release last night July 9.
It has been three days since the inmate at the Welikada jail was detected and despite the deployment of Armed Forces and Health services personnel it has not been possible to find out how he may have contracted the disease.
Apart from the possibility that he got it from other people intended for rehabilitation as the Commander said there is a chance that he may have got it from Sri Lankan migrant workers who returned.
Official sources said that some drug addicts who were transferred to Sri Lanka from jails in Middle-Eastern countries when workers and others were repatriated were also sent for rehabilitation to the centre.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Relations 87 Sri Lankans who were incarcerated in the Middle-East have been brought back to Sri Lanka because they had been on deportation orders.
It is not known how many of them are at Kandakadu.
The number detected at Kandakadu is the highest since June 3, when 66 COVID 19 positive patients were found according to the Epidemiological Unit of the Department of Health Services.
After the inmate was detected as COVID 19 positive at the Welikada Prison hospital on Tuesday the authorities send a total of 204 persons, inclusive of prison inmates and Prison Officers into various quarantine centres.
They conducted some 270 PCR tests of inmates and staff at Welikada but no-one tested positive.
They included inmates and staff from the Polonnaruwa, Welikada and Pallekelle jails, a statement from the Task Force to Prevent COVID 19 said.
They are all persons the infected inmate may have come into contact with.
Having a COVID 19 patient in Sri Lanka’s grossly overcrowded Prison is a nightmare the authorities do not want to deal with.
On Tuesday Prison officials closed off the prison for family visits prompting demonstrations outside the Welikada jail.
Most of Sri Lanka’s COVID 19 positive cases have come from two clusters, one at the sprawling Naval base at Welisara and the other from migrant workers returning from various countries in the Middle-East and Europe. (Colombo, July 10, 2020)