Covid cases rising as guidelines flouted
- SLMA notes 12.2% increase in patients, 9% increase in deaths last week
- PHIs warn ignoring guidelines could lead to another wave
- Health Promotion Bureau highlights risk of new clusters
BY Buddhika Samaraweera, Dinitha Rathnayake and Pamodi Waravita
The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has pointed out that the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths has increased significantly in the last week as compared to the previous week while public health inspectors (PHIs) have warned about another Covid-19 wave following the Government ending travel restrictions.
Speaking to the media, SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratne said: “Last week, 5,002 Covid-19 patients were reported and it is an increase of 12.2% compared to the previous week. In addition, 132 Covid-19 deaths were reported last week, which is 9% higher than the previous week. Therefore, people should adhere to the health guidelines 100%.”
In light of this, she said that one has to wonder if the reduction of the Covid-19 pandemic situation has slowed down.
She also noted that some people are now ignoring health practices such as wearing facemasks, adding therefore that public support is essential to further control the disease.
“People should be very careful when attending large gatherings. By now, the health authorities have recommended the number of participants that can attend events, such as weddings and funerals. Therefore, it is very important to act on such advice,” Dr. Gunaratne mentioned.
According to the Epidemiology Unit, Sri Lanka, as of 10 p.m. on 31 October, recorded 13,743 Covid-19 deaths while the total number of infections stood at 541,072, of which a total of 512,798 patients had recovered.
Meanwhile, PHIs yesterday (11) warned about another wave at a stage where the Government has ended travel restrictions despite warnings from medical professionals.
Speaking to The Morning, PHIs Union Secretary Mahendra Balasooriya said: “We have observed that the public doesn’t follow the health guidelines. Some wear no masks.”
According to Balasooriya, health guidelines are not properly followed in buses and at economic centres. “There is a risk in the apparel industry, the ports, and government offices at the moment. Health guidelines should be properly followed by the locals as well as by the tourists.”
Sri Lanka’s inter-provincial travel ban, which was imposed in May due to the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, ended on 31 October despite warnings from medical professionals. The inter-provincial travel ban was continued despite the Government ending the quarantine curfew lockdown on 1 October, which was continuously in force from 20 August.
The lifting of the travel ban came as the SLMA warned of a possible new wave with restrictions being relaxed. In a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLMA said that it was more important than ever before that precise steps be taken at this point of time. It recommended close monitoring as health guidelines are not being implemented and since the public keeps disregarding them.
They recommended a third dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster to priority groups such as the elderly and frontline health workers.
Meanwhile, the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) yesterday warned of new Covid-19 clusters that could arise in the country, following the lifting of inter-provincial travel restrictions on 31 October.
“We have observed an increased risk of the spread of the Covid-19 infection on previous occasions when the travel restrictions were lifted. However, there is a difference this time as over 60% of the entire population are now fully vaccinated. But the risk of clusters emerging at certain locations is still there and if these clusters do emerge, we would have to consider the imposition of health guidelines again accordingly,” said HPB Director Dr. Ranjith Batuwanthudawa at a press conference held yesterday.
He added that over 90% of the target population in the Covid-19 vaccination drive – those over the age of 20 years – have now been fully vaccinated with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“We also started vaccinating schoolchildren between the ages of 16 and 19 years. We have administered about 600,000 Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses so far for children and we hope to complete the vaccination of this target age group within this week,” said Dr. Batuwanthudawa.
Furthermore, he said that the administration of the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine began yesterday for frontline workers.
Meanwhile, Consultant Paediatrician Prof. Guwani Liyanage said yesterday that since the reopening of schools, teachers must increase their awareness of the post-Covid-19 syndrome in children and be sensitive to issues such as increased tiredness and joint pain.
“Global-level statistics show that 10% of children can experience post-Covid-19 syndrome. Symptoms include increased tiredness, joint pain, dry cough, and a reluctance to concentrate on studies. If you are a teacher, it is important to know of these symptoms as you may see changes in the children. The best way to prevent post-Covid-19 syndrome is to prevent getting infected with Covid-19, and therefore, adherence to the health guidelines such as washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing is necessary,” added Dr. Liyanage.
Sri Lanka faced a severe increase in Covid-19 infections during the past few months, with health professionals mainly attributing this to the Covid-19 Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of Indian origin. However, infection numbers and deaths due to Covid-19 have been waning.