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Sri Lanka wants to prosecute patient who delayed testing for COVID19

CONFLICTED -Director-General of Health Services D. Anil Jasinghe is concerned private sector testing for COVID19 will become a business

ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lankan man whose travelling companion tested positive for the COVID19 resisted attempts by the authorities to go into quarantine or be tested for more than three days before he was taken to a government facility, the country’s top health official said.

Director-General Health services Dr Anil Jasinghe said this person was tested positive two days ago and became Patient 11.

“This person’s actions were selfish and anti-social, and we are contemplating taking legal action against him,” Jasinghe said.

Patient 11 had travelled to Germany with another person who was tested positive for the disease several days previously.

The Director-General said that this person had resisted efforts to go to a government medical facility and had instead consulted his personal doctor, a private hospital and then gone to a Chest Facility.

“This caused a delay in placing him in quarantine and testing him,” Jasinghe said.  

Sri Lanka’s current frantic and aggressive efforts to prevent community transmission of the COVID19 virus may have been necessitated by a delay in using an existing facility to quarantine travellers from coronavirus hit countries.

On March 5, when the government decided to quarantine passengers arriving at the Bandaranaike Airport from South Korea, Italy and Iran they chose the Leprosy Hospital at Hendala which the Director-General of Health Services described as “ideal.”

The facility had been urgently prepared by the Army and was ready to accept travellers by March 6th.

But a huge protest broke out from local residents against the quarantine centre.

It was led by former government Minister Nimal Lansa and local clergy. Lansa in a Facebook posting on March 7 said that “while quarantine is essential it is better to place it in a sparsely populated area rather than this densely populated area.”

He also said he was in contact with the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister about this issue,

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi later conceded that the decision to move away from the Hendala facility to the current quarantine centres in Kandakadu and Batticaloa “took another two or three days.”

Eventually, the delay in implementing strict quarantine ended up with 4,453 incoming travellers with or without symptoms entering society.

Local Public Health Inspectors were expected to keep tabs on these persons, and has added the muscle of the Military Intelligence services to search for some of these persons.

Teams of officers are now looking for possible COVID19 patients who have slipped the net. (Colombo March 16, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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