ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will very likely experience a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of the national New Year celebrations, public health inspectors (PHIs) say.
Irresponsible behaviour on the part of the general public and the government’s reluctance to ban festivities have contributed to the threat, PHI Union President Upul Rohana told EconomyNext today.
Hygiene and physical distancing guidelines issued by the health ministry for the Avurudu period are not being followed by the public, he said.
“We’re clearly facing the threat of a third wave,” he added.
Rohana claimed that some garment factory workers in the free trade zone who visited their hometowns over the past few weekends have tested positive for the virus upon their return. Nearly 100 cases were found in the free trade zone from March 12 to 15.
“Some who were supposed to be in home quarantine had also visited their hometowns,” he said.
The PHI union leader said Avurudu festivals with crowds exceeding 500 people were seen in highly populated areas in the western province over the past few days. The western province is still considered high risk.
“People are not behaving responsibly. We see many roaming around the country without a mask on, many who don’t maintain physical distancing and travelling in crowded buses that far exceed their seating capacity,” he said.
The first signs of the next wave of the pandemic will start to appear in early May, said Rohana.
“The government should’ve banned Avurudu festivals rather than impose restrictions. People don’t really care for restrictions,” he said, adding that the public only responds to a binary declaration of whether something is banned or not.
Meanwhile, Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva has the public to be more mindful of the ongoing pandemic.
“The public must take care to go shopping for clothes rather than shopping for COVID-19,” he said in an interview given to the state-run Independent Television Network (ITN).
Even if people tend to wear masks more often than not, they don’t seem to maintain physical distancing, he said.
“We can’t tell people not to go shopping. We have informed shop owners of the maximum number of customers they can let inside the premises at a given time, but that may not be something that’s easy for them to control,” said Silva.
In a period of 24 hours that ended at 6am today, 238 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, 58 of them being returnees from abroad. A vast majority of cases were recorded in Colombo, official data shows.
“We have brought down daily cases to 200+ with great effort when neighbouring countries like India and Bangladesh have seen rapid surges in their numbers,” the army chief told ITN.
Others, however, contend that Sri Lanka’s drop in daily cases are simply a reflection of a parallel drop in PCR testing, though the health ministry maintains that there has indeed been a significant decline in cases.
Defending a decision to not introduce another lockdown, Silva said: “How many people became unemployed and went through various economic losses and hardships [during the previous lockdown] [After all the effort to recover], why turn things bad again for these five, six days?”
The results of restrictions imposed and the public’s behaviour will be seen towards end of April or early May, he added. (Colombo/Apr12/2021)