A second wave? | Sunday Observer

A second wave?

Sri Lanka is in dire need of re-addressing the basics of preventing Covid-19, the General Secretary of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) Dr Haritha Aluthge told the media last week. The medical officer said that if the basics in the anti-Covid-19 battle such as keeping one-metre distance, washing hands frequently and wearing face masks were strictly followed, the emergence of new Covid- 19  clusters would be impossible.

“First, we experienced a large Covid cluster in  the Navy camp, Welisara. If the basics were properly followed there is no room for such a large number of patients. Now, we have a new cluster from  the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre.


 This proves that we have not learnt a lesson from  the Welisara experience,” he said.

He also said that the potential of Kandakadu being the largest Covid- 19  cluster is very high.

 New Covid–19 patients have been found in two drug rehabilitation centres under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice in Kandakadu and Senapura in  the Polonnaruwa district. There are about 1,150 detainees and staff at both locations.

A detainee who had spent several months in both rehabilitation centres was taken to the Welikada Prison for a legal procedure on July 7 and was diagnosed with Covid-19 during his stay at Welikada. Consequently, about 700 detainees who were in the same ward of  the Welikada prison have been tested for Covid-19. Thereafter, the health authorities begn conducting PCR tests in both locations in Polonnaruwa and found 339 Covid cases within two days. Also, another inmate  at the Welikada prison and  three  associates of an inmate of the Kandakadu rehabilitation centre tested positive on Friday evening.

The severity of the situation arises as those detainees in both locations have had visits from their relatives since July 4, after several months of social distancing. However, the National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 (NOCPCO) assures that all those close contacts (116 people) have been identified and  and  are now quarantined.

 The National Operations Centre also stresses  to the public that there are no areas  currently locked down or isolated in the country and urge the public to stay away from false information. In the meantime, a young counsellor in Marawila attached to the Kandakadu rehabilitation centre- who was on holiday was Covid positive.

 It was later found that the woman counsellor had used public transport from Polonnaruwa to Marawila. After tracing her close contacts, 40 people including her parents are now in quarantine.

DIG Ajith Rohana  at a press conference told  the media that the health authorities are not expecting a widespread pandemic  through the Marawila patient, because of the safety measures followed by the patient.

“According to the information we gathered this patient has worn a facemask all the time when she was outside her house. She has adhered to all safety precautions. Because of that a further spread of the disease through her, is very limited, the health authorities have informed us,” he said. 


Following the emergence of the latest cluster from Kandakadu, the Sri Lanka Army with the assistance of  the Ministry of Health established a dedicated centre for Covid-19 treatment in the Kandakadu quarantine centre, head of the NOCPCO Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva told the media.

As he explained, by the end of Friday all 1,150 in both rehabilitation centres were having the PCR tests. Based on the fact that 339 Covid cases found out of merely 400 tests, the Army Commander believes the number of Covid patients from Kandakadu cluster has a high possibility of rising further.

“We have taken all measures to manage these two centres in future. Also, we have taken every possible action to stop social transmission. Following the rise of the number of Covid patients, we see a spread of false information and rumours about the isolation of certain areas. If there is such a situation we would certainly announce it to the public officially. We request the public to go by  the information  given by the Department of Government Information,” the Army Commander said.

The Commander also said that several officials who work at both rehabilitation centres had gone home for holidays and the Army immediately brought the majority of them back to both locations. The rest  were due to report to work by Friday evening.  

Medical Council expresses grave concern

The Sri Lanka Medical Council issuing a press communique appealed  to the Government to enhance the campaign to strengthen the behaviour towards the new normal. The media statement  is as follows;

“Sri Lanka as a country has managed to successfully control the spread of Covid 19 with a technically correct approach and prompt measures in the initial stage. This is something that we can be proud of and the country and the population should be grateful to the Government for the excellent handling of the situation up to the present time. In fact, Sri Lanka’s approach of ‘Trace, Test, Treat’ has been the envy of the world in that respect”.

“However, the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) is now gravely concerned  at the current situation where there is a blatant lack of application of the measures required to control the spread of the disease. We are of the view that key measures are not adequately applied and monitored at present, thereby increasing the vulnerability of the country to a resurgence of Covid-19.

It is now clearly observed that the country is shifting back to the behaviour of the pre-Covid era. It is tremendously disheartening to see what was achieved by a massive campaign to take the country to a new normal situation being reversed. Most, unfortunately, it seems to be complicated by some regressive set of steps that have been taken which could contribute towards dragging the entire country towards the catastrophic status that is akin to that faced by many other nations the world over”.

“Over relaxing of restrictions for public gatherings, operation of uncontrolled public transport, widespread opening of recreational activities and many other questionable manoeuvres have probably paved the way to change the mind-set of the people to abandon the very necessary control measures. Keeping the much-needed physical distancing, frequent hand washing, are largely disappearing, thereby increasing the risk of viral spread in the community. Even proper wearing of masks in public places is not strictly adhered to. The disappearance of those healthy behavioural patterns  seem to be largely due to  the fast relaxation of control measures indicating that the risk of Covid 19 is no more. This false notion is extremely harmful and it will be hard to revert back to healthy behaviour in the case of a resurgence of cases”.

“We need to be alerted by the increasing caseload of neighbouring countries and unprecedented resurgence of cases in countries which earlier claimed to have controlled the pandemic. We need to learn very important lessons from what has happened in the very recent past. Therefore, the SLMA is appealing to the Government to enhance the campaign to strengthen the behaviour towards the new normal, through  the continuation of  the strict application of control measures and making it a mandatory requirement on the part of the general public to conform to the advice provided by the health professionals who are conversant  with the subject”.