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Covid-19 transmission | Fishermen pose a risk: PHIs

By Sarah Hannan

The public health inspectors (PHIs) have raised concerns over the potential of Covid-19 being transmitted through seafarers from the Northern Province between South India and Northern Sri Lanka.

Speaking to The Morning, Public Health Inspectors’ Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) Secretary M. Balasooriya said that there is an imminent risk of the virus being passed from the mid-sea interactions that would possibly be taking place between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

“In the recent weeks, we heard about a lot of incidents where contraband goods including turmeric stocks were smuggled from India to Sri Lanka from the northern sea routes. We are also worried that similar to the way they smuggle these contraband goods, there might be occasions where they smuggle people through boats as well,” he explained.

Balasooriya stated that some of these fishermen also use the islands in the North to break rest, especially if the weather takes a worse turn, and there may be close contacts of Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen; it can potentially expose them to an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.

“We urge the health authorities to introduce a mechanism to screen the fishermen that return from the multi-day trawlers and even the day-sailing vessels, to ensure such transmission does not take place,” Balasooriya opined.

He also noted that traditionally, some groups have a tendency to disembark in Sri Lanka to attend various religious festivities that are conducted from time to time in Hindu and Catholic shrines that are in the Northern Province, hinting that there would have been probably few people who smuggled themselves into the island in the past weeks as the situation in India seems to be worsening.