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Sri Lanka orders inquiry into Russian COVID-19 case

ECONOYMNEXT – Sri Lanka has ordered an official inquiry into the controversial Russian COVID-19 case in Matara as reports of several quarantine rule violations continue to surface.

Senior officials speaking to EconomyNext on condition of anonymity said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered an inquiry to be carried out in Matara and at the Mattala international airport. The inquiry will be jointly carried out by both the national COVID taskforce and the Sri Lanka Army.

The Russian patient and his fellow crew members are alleged 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 the 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. There are reportedly around six PHIs at the Mattala airport.

The epidemiology unit of the Ministry of Health is supposed to inform local PHIs and MOHs of any transfer of people being quarantined, Rohana 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 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.

Sri Lanka was strongly considering a limited lockdown in the area reportedly visited by the Russian crew member but a possibility of lockdown was ruled out within hours.

However, questions remain as to the accommodation of the Russian crew in the Matara hotel which is not a designated quarantine facility.

A circular published by the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services on July 7 states that with regard to accommodation of foreign airline crew members, the “airline can select the hotel and there is no need to reserve hotels exclusively for the stay of foreign crew members”.

However, point 4 of the circular states that at all times the crew members should be strictly confined to their hotel room during their entire stay. (Colombo/Sep25/2020)

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