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Sunday June 20th, 2021

Sri Lanka needs wider lockdowns; waiting list for ICU, non-Covid-19 patients dying: SLMA

ECONOMYNEXT – Patients are in waiting list for intensive care and non-Covid-19 patients are dying, a breakdown of the health system is imminent unless action is taken to halt the spread, Sri Lanka Medical Association has warned.

The current Coronavirus variant is spreading too fast despite lockdowns of smaller areas.

A team from the SLMA had met President Gotatabaya Rajapaksa on May 10 and asked for district or province wide lockdowns based on caseloads to bring faster controls of the surge as well as inter-district and inter-provincial movements.

The President had halted the inter-provincial movements.

“The number requiring oxygen and the number waiting for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) management is also is rapidly rising,” the SLMA said after a group of representatives met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“There is a severe shortage of PCR facilities, particularly in peripheral hospitals.

“There are many diagnosed COVID infected individuals languishing at home, awaiting admission to hospitals or intermediate centres.

“As such, unless a rapid action plan to reduce the case load is implemented, the health care system will inevitably go out of control and end up in a total breakdown.”

While the government was expanding facilities there was a limit to how much could be provided. The surge is also undermining ability to care for other patients.

“The facilities for Non-COVID medical problems are also being curtailed through necessity and their management is getting neglected, leading to an unavoidable increase in deaths of patients with Non-COVID diseases,” the SLMA said.

“The possibility of physical and mental fatigue of healthcare professionals is disturbing and quick
action to curtail the rapid rise of cases is essential to avert a collapse of the healthcare system.

The SLMA said it took about two weeks from infection to develop symptoms and another two weeks to develop severe symptoms and death.

“As such the death rate seen today is the result of infection contracted one month ago,” the SLMA said.

“Based on that perception, it is likely that there will be more and more cases and deaths over the next 3 -4 weeks.”

“Unless action is instituted today, there will be an exponential rise of cases followed by a surge, at which time interventions of any sort are unlikely to have any significant impact on the outbreak.

“In this scenario, a virtual breakdown of the health care system would be unavoidable and perhaps inevitable.”

The UK variant of COVID 19 is highly transmissible and infectious. As there is a delay in getting PCR reports, by the time the report is available, the infected patient has already spread the disease to a larger community in society.

The delay in releasing PCR tests meant that infected persons were going around spreading the disease.

“As such, locking down smaller areas such as Gramaseva Divisions are unlikely to be effective in controlling the spread of infection,” the SLMA said.

“The COVID deaths may reach unprecedented levels and a grave national catastrophe is a real potential threat in the near future unless something that offers rapid results is implemented.

“Achieving rapid control would save many lives, ease the burden on hospitals, lay the background for vaccination and be economically beneficial in the longer-term.

“Despite the hardships encountered by people, evidence from many countries shows that strict and immediate measures to restrict movement of people is the only measure that quickly and drastically reduces the numbers of cases.”

SLMA said it asked President Rajapaksa lockdowns “of certain areas such as districts and even provinces, based only on scientific evidence of the density of caseloads and restriction of inter-district and inter-provincial movement of people” was taken up for early implementation.

Vaccination does not give quick results as it takes 6 to 8 weeks for an effective immune response to develop.

“As such, vaccination is not the only or the best solution for the immediate crisis in hand, but the need of the hour is something that offers urgent results of reducing the caseload.”

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