- Of over 23,000 samples, 7%-8% are COVID-19 positive: Chief Epidemiologist
- Says need for ICU facilities and oxygen supply is increasing
- Alert Level 3 restrictions tightened
- Several areas placed under isolation
- Nine COVID-related deaths reported yesterday
By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
The New Year Cluster, first cited in the Epidemiology Unit’s daily COVID-19 situation report on 29 April, has exceeded 15,000 patients, with 1,843 detections yesterday.
COVID-19 detections across the island began to increase after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and health authorities have repeatedly attributed the increase in the spread of COVID-19 to the public’s failure to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines during the New Year.
Over 1,000 COVID-19 patients have been detected on a daily basis in Sri Lanka since 27 April, when 1,111 persons tested positive for COVID-19. However, the majority of patients were categorised under sub-clusters related to the Peliyagoda cluster.
On 28 April, 1,417 COVID-19 patients linked to the New Year cluster were detected and the following day 1,491 patients linked to the cluster were detected. On 30 April, 1,636 persons linked to the cluster tested positive. On 1 May, 1,697 COVID-19 patients linked to the New Year cluster were detected. The cluster total currently stands at 15,245.
The emergence of the cluster has led to an increase in the number of active patients in the country as well. At 10 a.m. on 28 April, 6,873 persons were under medical care. This number increased to 13,824 patients yesterday.
Health authorities state that an increase in the number of patients below the age of 60 is apparent with the third wave of COVID-19.
According to Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, 23,631 PCR tests were performed on Saturday.
“The percentage of patients detected from the samples tested was 7% to 8%. An increase in the percentage of patients displaying COVID-19 symptoms as well as an increase in the number of patients below the age of 60 displaying symptoms is to be seen. There has also been an increase in the need for oxygen and ICU treatment for these patients,” he said.
The strain on the country’s healthcare system is apparent and the Health Ministry has stated that measures are being taken to expand treatment and ICU facilities for COVID-19 patients.
Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurveda Hospitals Development and Community Health State Minister Dr. Sisira Jayakody yesterday said that approval had been given for Ayurveda hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.
“The Government has decided to use Ayurveda hospitals across the country, including the Ayurveda General Hospital Rajagiriya and Nawinna Ayurveda Hospital, as COVID-19 treatment centres,” he said.
The country has also been placed at Alert Level 3 and the Government issued revised guidelines and restrictions under Alert Level 3 over the weekend.
According to Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, certain activities that were permitted within some limitations under Alert Level 3 have once again been restricted completely given the increase in the number of patients detected.
Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President Dr. Padma Sriyani Gunaratne yesterday warned that the situation in Sri Lanka could take a turn for the worse like in India if people did not follow guidelines for at least the next two weeks.
Changes made since the guidelines issued on 23 April by the Primary Health Care, Epidemic and COVID Disease Control State Ministry include a ban on all conferences, seminars, meetings and brand launches until 20 May.
The capacity permitted in supermarkets, shopping malls, financial institutions, clothing and textile shops, grocery stores, open markets, fairs and economic centres, and bakeries have been dropped to 25% from 50%.
The 25% capacity limit also applies to salons, laundromats, tailors and dressmakers, communication stores, and furniture, electrical and hardware stores as well as courts.
Day-cares must remain closed and preschools, schools, higher education centres and tuition classes will remain closed until further notice. People will not be permitted to gather at religious places and events and public gathering in closed or open spaces will not be permitted.
Weddings will not be permitted until 20 May, when the restrictions will be reviewed based on the situation in the country.
National Operations Centre for the Prevention of the COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head Gen. Shavendra Silva stressed that people should refrain from moving events to their homes and entertaining guests given the situation in the country.
The NOCPCO announced that the Piliyandala Police Area was placed under isolation at 7 a.m. yesterday, along with areas in the Kalutara, Trincomalee and Nuwara Eliya Districts.
Walana North, Wekada North, Kiriberiya and Malamulla East in Panadura South Police Area in the Kalutara District and the Nildandahinna Grama Niladhari Division in the Walapane Police Area in the Nuwara Eliya District have also been placed under isolation.
In the Trincomalee District, Orrs Hill Grama Niladhari Division in the Trincomalee Police Area and Anpuwalipuram Grama Niladhari Division in the Uppuweli Police Area are also isolated.
Nine new COVID-related deaths were reported yesterday, bringing the death toll to 696.