Sri Lanka’s newest COVID 19 cluster linked to another that erupted in April – Dr Anil Jasinghe
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s newest COVID 19 cluster that has produced more than 300 new cases is linked directly to a cluster that emerged at Suduwella in April the country’s top Health official said.
The Director-General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe said that the cluster “has a link to the Suduwella group,” referring to a group of drug addicts that were found to be COVID 19 positive in early to mid-April.
The current cluster is inside a rehabilitation camp for drug addicts and the patients are inmates, staff members and their families.
“The Kandakadu cluster is a development of the Suduwella cluster,” Jasinghe said adding that more such clusters may erupt.
The drug-addicts who tested positive at Suduwella had been quarantined and when they were released were sent for rehabilitation to Kandakadu, officials said.
That is probably how the inmates at the camp became infected.
Between 600 and 800 more PCR tests were done today at the Kandakadu and the neighboring Senapura rehab centres and the results are expected later tonight with officials braced to deal with at least another 300 cases.
Infant among those infected
Among those infected and hospitalized outside the camp but with connections to Kandakadu are a one-and-a-half-year-old infant and an eleven-year-old boy from the same family from Rajangana in the Anuradhapura district, officials told reporters.
The children’s father is a staff member at the Rehabilitation camp and has tested positive for the virus, while the mother appears to be free of the disease. Today another positive case was reported from Rajangana said to be a close contact of the camp staffer.
Nine other Coronavirus cases have been reported with at least two linked to the latest cluster. The results of the tests done inside the COVID 19 struck camp had not been received as of this writing.
The cluster had caused the Health Authorities to test more than a thousand inmates and staff at the Kandakadu and Senapura rehabilitation camps in Polonnaruwa. The two camps are located several kilometres apart.
The country’s military chief who heads the COVID 19 prevention operation in the country said that hundreds of PCR tests are being done and “the number of patients is definitely going to rise.”
Nearly two thousand quarantined
In a sweeping wide-ranging operation that spread throughout most of the country the government placed nearly two thousand people in quarantine over the last two days, Army Commander Lt General Shavendra Silva said.
Silva said the newest cluster was discovered when an inmate at the main prison in the country, Welikada tested positive on July 7.
He had been brought to Colombo from Kandakadu for a court hearing and under the new rules prisoners, when they are moved to another jail, have to undergo a mandatory PCR test.
After that 312 tests had been done and none returned positive, Silva said.
There were 242 inmates who were in Welikada and moved to other jails. While we were testing them 204 inmates were taken for quarantine at the Punani Army-run centre under the control of Prison Officials, he said
There was also another group of 62 who had been released from jail by the courts. We brought them back and they are currently being quarantined.
PCR tests are being continued at Welikada and yesterday, July 10, another person tested positive.
Kandakadu and Senapura have 1,141 inmates and staff. The inmates are those who have been ordered by the courts to go into rehabilitation. The camps are run by the Ministry of Justice.
One woman counsellor who was on leave had gone home to Nattandiya has contracted the virus and her family and four neighbouring families have been moved to an Army-run quarantine centre.
She had used public transport to travel from Kandakadu to Nattandiya.
The staff member from Rajangana had attended a funeral and an alms-giving ceremony once he went there and around 200 people who came for the funeral and the subsequent events are in self-quarantine, Silva said.
The authorities also found that the 11-year old boy who is now in the hospital had been attending a tuition class and all 70 students and teachers there have also been quarantined.
Meanwhile, another staff member who lives in Habaraduwa has tested positive and is now warded at the National Infectious Diseases Hospital in Mulleriyawa. His family and neighbours have been quarantined.
Staff members who had gone on leave have also been recalled and they and their families are housed at a facility at Katukeliyawa he said, where PCR tests will be conducted.
The Army chief also said that a military-run quarantine centre in Kandakadu has now been turned into a separate hospital to treat the COVID 19 positive inmates.
“These are recovering drug addicts and they have to be treated in a different way as they are not like normal patients,” he said.
“We feel it is best to look after them here.”
The third group the authorities are working with are the family members of the inmates who had been permitted to visit them on July 4.
“There are 116 family members who came to see the inmates and they and their family members total 441 people and we are in the process of bringing them into quarantine centres,” he said.
Of them, 328 have already been brought to the Kandakadu Quarantine centre and the rest have been picked up and are on their way there. (Colombo July 11, 2020)