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Kandakadu Covid-19 cluster: SLMA notes risk of community spread

Much larger challenge this time

By Skandha Gunasekara 

There was a higher risk of community spread from the Kandakadu Covid-19 cluster for multiple reasons including the unpredictable behavioural pattern of the patients. 

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) warned that there was a possibility that the virus could enter Sri Lankan society through the illegal drug trade. 

“There is a high possibility of the virus entering society through the illegal drug distribution network. This is where the concern is. This behavioural pattern is something that was prevalent during the first round of clusters Sri Lanka was able to contain,” SLMA President Prof. Indika Karunatilake told The Morning.

He also pointed out that from the evidence available, it appears that the Covid-19 infection had been ongoing for several weeks at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre. 

“In settings where large numbers stay together for a long duration, the infection can spread rapidly. There were 300 cases detected in one day. But it doesn’t mean they were all infected on the same day. What we can gather from the evidence coming is that the infection may have been going on in the camp for a few weeks,” he said.

Further, he pointed out that Sri Lanka’s containment methods may be less effective this time around. 

“Sri Lanka followed a system of trace, test, and treat which was very effective in controlling the initial outbreak. However, with the Kandakadu cluster and with some who may be having links with illegal drug distribution networks, the contact tracing process is more challenging. This factor also carries the risk of the epidemic moving into the community transmission stage. This possibility of community transmission is a more serious concern than speculations of a second wave.”

Another challenge for this strategy is the fact that both society and the authorities seem to have a more relaxed attitude with regard to Covid-19 safety measures, he said, adding that It is of paramount importance to gazette the regulations regarding preventive measures without delay.

Nevertheless, Prof. Karunatilake said that contact tracing was still the best strategy for Sri Lanka. 

“This time, we face a much larger challenge in controlling than previously. But I think we should still stick to the same strategy of trace, test, and treat,” he said.