Weekend spike in COVID-19 cases expected due to public movement in December, Jan: Dr Herath

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s health officials attribute a recent “expected” spike in COVID-19 cases to increased public movement in December and the first week of January.

The country recorded 887 cases on Friday (22), the highest single-day cases reported so far. Over the weekend, over 750 people tested positive for the virus each day.

“It happened just like we expected. Especially during the last week of December and the first week of January, public movement increased and everyone was going all over the country,” Acting Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath told EconomyNext.

“Many people went from the Western Province to other provinces and vice versa,” he added.

The recent increase in cases is also due to testing carried out after a 14-day incubation period, he said.

Sri Lanka’s health authorities identified 843 COVID-19 patients over a period of 24 hours that ended at 6am today (25). A majority of them – 480 cases – were identified in the Colombo district.

Herath said that over the next few days, the numbers might either go down or go up. “It could increase, but not by a big amount,” he said, adding that though the numbers are rising, the situation is still under control.

According to Herath, daily cases are within a range of 600 to 800, which he claims is evidence that the health authorities are in control of the virus.

“If it was out of control, the numbers or the spreading rate will be much higher than the current numbers,” he said.

However, Herath acknowledged that steps that are being taken to contain the clusters identified so far are not sufficient to bring the spread of the virus totally under control. The numbers are not going down because there is no curfew to keep the public in one place, he said.





“The biggest barrier to controlling the virus is the movement of the public which cannot be restricted indefinitely since it will pose problems to the country’s economic and other activities. We have to control the virus while providing the space for economic activity. We can’t blame anyone in this situation. We are trying our best control it while providing that space,” he said.

Both the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union have said that Sri Lanka is on the verge of community transmission of the virus, despite government claims to the contrary. Referring to cases reported in areas outside the Western Province, the two unions recently accused the government of losing the control of the virus.

“Many parties are saying we have failed to keep the virus within the Western Province, which is true, but no one is saying why it happened. Imagine what would happen to a daily wage earner if we locked down an area. How would they survive? If we stop all economic activity and completely focus on controlling the pandemic, our country and economy will be destroyed with only the virus under control.

“If we look at the clusters, we managed to completely control most of them. But new clusters emerged as people kept moving from place to place. We cannot blame anyone for that, because we do all this while keeping our economy going. But if we stop trying to contain it, the situation will be much more devastating than this,” said Herath.

Health authorities cannot do this on their own without the support of the general public, he added. (Colombo/Jan25/2021)

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