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Sri Lanka scrambles after Navy Coronavirus cluster that fanned out in curfew, Covid-19 count 619

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is focusing on containing a Navy Coronavirus cluster where infected sailors and most close contacts in many districts have already been located, officials said as efforts were also under way to mop up persons linked to underserved areas in Colombo.

On Tuesday, 31 cases had been confirmed, mostly Navy officers and their contacts, down from 65 a day earlier, which was also mostly by sailors.

“The big increase in Coronavirus cases were due to the problem with Navy sailors,” Director of Health Services Anil Jasinghe told Sri Lanka’s Derana Television.

“We are now coming towards the end of identifying infected sailors. That is why it went up and is gradually coming down.”

Sri Lanka health officials and intelligence officials had located round 200 sailors.

New Coronavirus infections turned up in multiple districts around the country from sailors who had gone home during a curfew when inter district travel was banned.

It is not clear whether Sri Lanka carried out random tests among military officers or public health inspectors who are involved in contact tracing and quarantine work to find asymptomatic persons.

There have been calls to test high-risk individuals in contact tracing/quarantine, cleaning staff in hospitals, hotels, and also front office staff, drivers and cleaners of businesses when curfews are relaxed.

Travelling in Curfew

The Navy cluster was discovered when a symptomatic sailor, from the Welisara camp turned up at Welikanda hospital halfway across the country during Coronavirus curfews when no one was expected to travel between districts.





A banana trader who had taken several sailors from the navy base in Welisara, as well as army officers on leave, had been told to self-isolate at home. He had taken a sailor on leave to Lunugamvehera who had been later confirmed with Coronavirus.

“One person from the Army and one person from the navy got in,” one the truck owner told reporters.

A soldier had come in a truck some distance at the back and then some distance inside. Officers manning checkpoints had at times asked truck owners to take soldiers during curfew, television reports said.

Jasinghe said Public Health Officers and intelligence officers were working swiftly to identify military officers on leave and their contacts.

Watching Out

On April 28, out of the 31 confirmed cases, 21 were sailors, 04 were from the Army, 06 were close contacts of sailors, mostly family members or neighbors, Jasinghe said.

“Our next problem is when the numbers of sailors go down we have to watch whether the numbers of cases among their contacts will go up,” Jasinghe said.

“That is what health service staff and intelligence officials are watching closely.”

Of the April 28 cases, 15 were from inside the Welisara camp. Others were from sailors in Medirigiriya, Aranayake, Agalawatte, Polpithigama, and Habarana.

On April 27, a person was found from 60-Watte, an underserved settlement in Colombo, linked to the Bandaranaike Pura large cluster in Colombo which started with a person who had gone on a pilgrimage to India.

In Havelock Lane, a person from Colombo Municipality sanitation staff had been confirmed. The driver of the truck was a confirmed person from Bandaranaike Mawatha.

Jasinghe said samples were being taken from sanitation workers.

In Dabare Mawatha, originally a person who returned from the Maldives was confirmed. Samples were taken from the area too.

“At first we did not get confirmations but the day before (April 27) we got two. The Bandaranaike and Keselwatte clusters are now mostly under control. We have to keep it at that level.”
Containment Action

Reports came in from around the country over the last three days of multiple actions taken by health officers to identify and contain the spread of Coronavirus from military officers on leave, who had fanned out across the country.

There were also reports that infections from sailors had spread to members of other forces who had taken part in musical shows. Musical shows had been banned as part of anti-Coroanvirus measures to stop people from gathering

On April 27, Derana television said an Air Force officer was confirmed with Coronavirus while on quarantine.

He was quarantined after he took part in a musical show on April 12 with two members of the Welisara navy camp band. But the two had not been confirmed with Coronavirus up to that point.

About 60 persons who were contacts of the Air Force officer had been quarantined.

About 180 army officers were quarantined at a Biyagama festival hall as part of containment measures.

Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide full day curfew on April 27 to bring back Navy and other military officers on leave.

On April 26, out of 63 persons confirmed 53 were sailors. There were 17 inside the camp, 37 from outside, 5 in quarantine, and the rest their close contacts.

In Anuradhapura on April 27, a young man was confirmed with Coronavirus at the teaching hospital. He had played carom and with two women navy officer who had come on leave from Welisara navy, public health officers told reporters.

Expanding Cluster

On that day the father of another confirmed case in Saliyapura was also hospitalized and 25 houses had been isolated.

The wife and 2.5-year old relation of the sailor confirmed in the Sevangala area in Moneragala had also been isolated.

She had operated a salon in Thanamalwila where at least one nurse from Kamburupitiya hospital had come. The emergency treatment unit of Kamburupitiya base hospital had been disinfected and 08 had been isolated.

About 10 persons may have been served at the hospital that day and 05 had already been identified by up that time, regional health officers told reporters.

On April 18 a sailor on leave from Welisara had come to Biyagama, and on April 23 he had shown symptoms and had been taken to Ragama hospital to be confirmed. He had gone to a salon to cut his hair at a barbershop in a nearby location called Peragahamulla.

As a result Prathiba Mawatha, Divulgama Mawatha and Malwatte Mawatha, in the area with a population of around 1,000 persons had been isolated.

Meanwhile, efforts were also underway to distance military personnel in barracks, in a bid to reduce the risks of infection.

Sri Lanka’s military chief Shavendra Silva had said some schools near military bases could be used to expand the barracks so that health army officers could maintain social distance as a safeguard for the future.

But schools would not be used as quarantine centres, General Silva said. (Colombo/Apr29/2020-sb)

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