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Wednesday May 12th, 2021

Sri Lanka running out of ICUs for COVID-19 as younger cases with severe symptoms surge

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state hospitals are running out of intensive care units (ICUs) allocated for COVID-19 treatment as more and more younger patients are admitted with severe symptoms, State Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle said.

Authorities are taking measures to increase ICU capacities in hospitals to meet the demand, she told EconomyNext this afternoon.

The State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Control said: “Though the number of daily cases is still low, we see more patients need to be sent to the ICU. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone needs ICU treatment.”

Fernandopulle said that though the elderly were thought to be the most affected by the virus, younger people increasingly develop symptoms faster over the first few days after exposure.

“Many younger patients have had to be taken to the ICU for treatment and as a result, our ICUs are now almost full,” she said.

“We have some space in certain ICUs, but due to more young people needing treatment, capacity is limited,” she added.

The state minister further said ICUs at the National Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Angoda are now full, but the regular wards reserved for COVID-19 treatment have not run out.

“We have treated more than 900 COVID-19 patients at a time in the past, so we have the capacity to treat all patients in the country,” she said.

Fernandopulle went on to say that the virus that is currently spreading in the country is suspected to be an as yet unidentified strain.

Sri Lanka has so far not had any issues with supplying oxygen to COVID-19 patients in need, she said. Increased daily cases following the Sinhala & Tamil New Year holidays have led to fears of an uncontrollable surge in numbers in the coming weeks.

Related: Sri Lanka likely to be hit by post-Avurudu spike in COVID-19 cases, experts warn

At an emergency meeting chaired by Health Minster Pavithra Wanniarachchi yesterday, the possibility of restricting public gatherings in the next three months to contain the spread was discussed. Earlier this week, the government announced a decision to cancel all May Day events.

Related: JVP accuses govt of using COVID-19 as excuse to cancel May Day rallies

The Kuliyapitiya police area is to be isolated from midnight tonight, though no announcement has been made yet of an island-wide or province-wide lockdown.

“The public enjoyed some freedom and relief in the recent past, but we have started to strictly enforce quarantine regulations again,” State Minister Fernandopulle said, requesting the public to act more responsibly.

President of the Association of Government Medical Laboratory Technologists Ravi Kumudesh told reporters today that the government is trying to shift the blame and the burden of fighting the pandemic to the public.

Related: Sri Lanka ramps up testing, adds more ICU beds as daily COVID-19 cases spike

“Did the public oppose increasing PCR tests? We repeatedly told the health ministry that daily testing had reduced to fewer than 5,000 PCR tests a day, but they failed to increase it,” said Kumudesh.

“The ministry must take full responsibility for issuing data to artificially ‘contain’ the spread and also for the decline in testing. They can’t pin it on the public and wash their hands,” he added. (Colombo/Apr22/2021)


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