- Patient count reaches 102 after 5 new cases, including 3 Italy returnees
- Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara Districts slapped with indefinite curfew, identified as ‘high-risk’ areas
- Goods to be home-delivered by new Task Force to encourage social distancing
- Pharmacies to remain open during curfew
- 311 people released from quarantine; 208 to be sent home today
- New quarantine centre set up in Jaffna to shelter 17 who were in contact with COVID-19 positive pastor
- Over 3,200 still in 46 quarantine centres
- Air Force working on expanding IDH facilities with 16 new rooms
Five new cases saw the number of COVID-19 patients in Sri Lanka climb past the one hundred mark yesterday, ending the day at 102, as the Government declared an indefinite curfew on Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara Districts, which have the highest number of diagnosed cases, and scrambled to put in place measures to encourage social distancing.
The three districts were named as ‘high-risk’ areas, as the majority of cases had been identified amongst those hailing from Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara.National Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe said of the 102 patients, 10 were from Gampaha, 21 from Colombo, and 13 from Kalutara. He also reiterated that this was why social distancing was of paramount importance.
“We saw many people outside supermarkets and shops maintaining the right length of distance, and we would like to commend these people, but there were also many other instances when the proper procedure was not followed. However, I would also like to reiterate that it is perfectly fine for people to not wear face masks. The Health Ministry will make face masks mandatory if necessary, but this is as yet unnecessary in Sri Lanka, as there is no community-based spread,” Dr. Jasinghe said.
He also confirmed that a doctor working at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) had been infected with COVID-19, but insisted that as the medical professional was a community doctor, and also operated his own dispensary, it could not be conclusively said that he contracted the virus at IDH.
As of yesterday, 229 people also remain hospitalised, with the majority at IDH.
The Sri Lanka Air Force is engaged in expanding the IDH’s quarantine facilities and is expected to complete constructing 16 new containment rooms over the next few days. The new rooms were expected to take two weeks to assemble, but the Air Force has assured that work will be completed sooner, with construction taking place around the clock.
The Air Force also debunked misinformation widely shared on social media of steps being taken to disinfect neighbourhoods by air in the middle of the night, assuring there was no such effort.
Meanwhile, the President’s Media Division (PMD), issuing a statement, said health authorities had become concerned after hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the streets to purchase essential goods and obtain other services when curfew was lifted last morning.
A new Task Force will be established under former Minister Basil Rajapaksa to deliver parcels of essential goods to households from Wednesday. Ministry Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and other top officials will be members of the Task Force, the PMD said.
All major supermarkets and Lanka Sathosa, as well as large traders such as Araliya and Nipuna, will make available the necessary produce. Vehicles used for deliveries will be allowed to travel during the curfew period.
Due to the dire need to purchase medication, the Health Ministry yesterday said pharmacies would remain open during the curfew period. Movement of vehicles transporting fish and agricultural produce will also be allowed during curfew, the respective line ministries announced yesterday. The Internal Trade Ministry is also coordinating all Sathosa outlets to distribute essential goods countrywide.
The National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC) yesterday said that among the five new cases were three people who had returned from Italy, and one from the United States.
NOCPOC Head Army Commander Lt. Gen Shavendra Silva said in a pre-recorded statement released to media that steps had been successfully taken to identify people who attended a service held by a Swiss pastor who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on his return to Switzerland.
“A number of people have been identified and are under self-quarantine, and 17 people who have been in direct contact have been placed in a new quarantine centre that has been established in Jaffna specifically for that purpose. Currently there are 3,224 in 46 quarantine centres,” the Army Commander said.
The number in quarantine centres is likely to reduce further, as another 208 will be released on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Government began releasing people who have completed their two-week quarantine, with the first 311 being dispatched in 11 buses. The group comprised 108 people from Kandakadu, and 203 from Punani quarantine centres. They are expected to remain under self-quarantine for about a week after reaching home.