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Two clusters make up nearly half of Sri Lanka’s total of COVID 19 patients

Navy guards at the Kochchikade Shrine of St Anthony shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks/Pathum Dhananjana EconomyNext.com

ECONOMYNEXT – In the past six days a total of 285 new COVID 19 positive cases have been diagnosed throughout Sri Lanka, according to statistics released by the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health today April 28.

The total number since the outbreak of the disease and the discovery of the first patient, a Chinese tourist, is now 596.

So in the past six days the number of COVID 19 patients in Sri Lanka has nearly doubled, a huge surge for a country that has had a very incremental increase in patient numbers on a daily basis.

These statistics are because of what is known as the “Welisara Navy Cluster” the large number of Navy Personnel from this giant Navy Camp who were found to be COVID 19 positive.

In all 206 persons are from this cluster.

They are believed to have contracted the disease from fellow sailors who were deployed to find and round up a group of at-risk people who were eventually found to be COVID 19 positive at Suduwella in the Ja-Ela area.

Subsequently after testing all the sailors in the Barrack where the sailors who had contact with the at-risk people, 30 Navy men were found to be sick with the virus.

Later testing of a large number of sailors found that more Navy men in the camp were infected.

The Navy also found that some sailors from the same Barrack had gone home on leave and had crossed district barriers and reached their home villages which were in areas, which until now, had been free of the virus.

These regions ranged from Polonnaruwa, where the first COVID 19 positive sailors was found, to Girandurukotte in the Badulla District.

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Some had travelled on returning vegetable trucks, taken three-wheelers or motorbikes to get home.

This has placed their family members in their villages as well as close associates at risk of contracting the disease.

Health Officials use the word “cluster” to describe a group of patients which are geographically located at a central spot and relate their infections to a single person.

The biggest earlier cluster was in the Bandaranayake Mawatha area in Central Colombo where 62 people were infected through a single person.

The first patient referred as the “Index Patient” in that case is a lady who returned from a pilgrimage to India and may have caught the disease from a fellow passenger on her flight home, according to Health Officials.

Public Health Officials found that her husband and son were also infected and within weeks many people in her neighbourhood, as well as nearby sectors, were testing positive for COVID 19.

These two clusters have contributed 268 of the 596 patients to the Sri Lankan total. (Colombo, April 28, 2020)