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Sri Lanka public health inspectors demand PCR test, go on self quarantine: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Public Health Inspectors who have been battling Coronavirus in the largest cluster in Colombo without personal protective equipment have gone on self-quarantine and demanded PCR tests, a media report said.

“We allowed them to go on self-quarantine as they are subject to high risks,” Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper quoted Chief Medical Officer of Colombo Municipal Council as saying.

Fourteen PHIs attached to the CMC had written a letter demanding PCR tests.

Sri Lanka has banned voluntary PCR tests and initially limited them only to patients in hospital with officials saying PCR was a ‘diagnostic’ test and not a ‘screening’ test.

But there is no other screening test available in the country for Coronavirus.

Sri Lanka also did not test contacts of confirmed patients in the beginning.

Authorities appear not to know that first contacts are tested immediately in countries that are successful in battling Coronavirus to find whether the second level is infected. If any first contact is positive the second level is also tested.

Neither did Sri Lanka test quarantined persons before release at first, though they are now being tested.

Sri Lanka also appeared not to have tested any Navy personnel involved in contact tracing allowing large numbers to become infected and go on leave to many parts of the country during curfews.

The practice in Sri Lanka had been to wait for a symptomatic person to turn up in hospital and deny tests to any asymptomatic person even if they worked in a high risk area.

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There have been calls lift the ban on tests to help protect businesses and ordinary citizens who may want to get a test voluntarily at their own expense due to working in a high risk area.

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“The current contact tracing strategy has a serious flaw in that it is too dependent on symptomatic cases and there is no way to detect an infected index case that is asymptomatic,” Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank said.

Once curfew is lifted, the front office staff of any institution including airports, quarantine workers, cleaning staff, people working in economic centres, and drivers may be exposed to higher risks.

Those in driving/delivery related jobs, in particular, would also be in a position to spread the disease faster and to a greater area.

While it may make sense to get symptomatic persons to state hospital, it makes no sense to deny tests to asymptomatic persons in high risk areas, Advocata said.

Earlier in April a surgeon at a top state hospital in Colombo had also demanded a test on a patient from an area where there was a Coronavirus cluster before an operation was performed but the request had been denied, medical sources said.

It had led an altercation between the surgeon and seniors who denied the test.

The surgery had been performed with only some staff wearing protective gear, and the test had later come back positive, the sources said.

Sri Lanka’s private citizens who are asymptomatic had also been banned from getting a voluntary test at their own expense. (Colombo/Apr30/2020)

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