69 test Covid-positive in Hambantota factory

  • All infected workers to be hospitalised today

Sixty-nine individuals, including 42 Indian nationals, have tested positive for Covid-19 at a construction site within the Mirijjawila Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Hambantota as of yesterday (18), a health official noted.

Hambantota District Director of Health Services Dr. Deepika Patabendige said that 52 of these are active cases, adding that the positive cases were identified during PCR testing carried out over the past two weeks.

Thirty-nine Indian nationals employed at the site, where a factory is under construction, had been admitted to the Covid-19 Unit of the Hambantota Hospital on Wednesday (17).

Dr. Patabendige stated that to control the further spread of the virus, the remaining Covid-19-infected workers will be hospitalised today (19).

The last time Sri Lanka reported a breakout of Covid-19 among employees in a factory environment was on 4 October 2020, which resulted in a Covid-19 cluster that subsequently saw cases detected in several other parts of the island, triggering travel restrictions across the country to control the spread.

Travel restrictions were similarly imposed islandwide in late August 2021 after a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, which remained in place for just over a month until the situation was brought under control.

However, several health sector officials have been warning of the possibility of the situation worsening once again. Speaking to the media on Monday (15), Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President Dr. Padma Gunaratne said: “According to the information available to us, the number of cases of Covid-19 infections has increased in many places where funerals, weddings, and other gatherings are taking place. People should pay close attention to this.”

The Ministry of Health and the Public Health Inspectors’ Union (PHIs’ Union) have also pointed out the importance of taking action to control the Covid-19 pandemic by minimising public gatherings in the current situation.

During a media briefing held on Monday, the media questioned Ministry of Health Communications Director and Deputy Director General of Public Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath on whether there would be a spread of Covid-19 due to the ongoing protests in various parts of the country.

He responded, saying: “I don’t even need to talk about it. It is very clear that the disease can be spread through the unnecessary gathering of people. Especially if a Covid-19-infected person attends such an assembly, the disease will spread to a large number of people there. Therefore, such gatherings should be kept to a minimum.”