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Current lockdown ‘useless’: Medical specialists

  • Far too many people on the road: AMS President

  • Follows PHIs’ criticism of prevailing restrictions

  • Dr. LakKumar urges 100,000 daily vaccinations and vaccines mix-match 

By Dinitha Rathnayake 

 

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has called the ongoing travel restrictions, or lockdown, which have been designed to have minimal economic impact, “useless” as it provides “very little benefit” in combatting the spread of Covid-19. 

“Staggered lockdowns are useless and have very little benefits,” AMS President Dr. LakKumar Fernando said, when asked for his views on the prevailing travel restrictions by The Morning yesterday (9). 

He highlighted the high number of people travelling amidst the travel restrictions for work and other essential services. 

“The number of people on the roads is far too high. Not effective enough. The health sector is still overwhelmed and it’s getting worse by the day. As a result, we cannot reopen like we were before the lockdown now.” 

This follows similar criticism of the prevailing travel restrictions by the Public Health Inspectors’ (PHI) Union, as reported by The Morning on Monday (7). The Union urged authorities to maintain meaningful restrictions during the travel restriction period, noting that extending the period under the current system is pointless. 

Speaking to The Morning, Union Secretary Mahinda Balasooriya claimed a majority of the public was travelling without any consideration of the current restrictions.

“We see more and more people on the road day by day and the numbers are increasing. We could do an assessment on Friday (11) about the travel restrictions and the results, but in our opinion, extending travel restrictions has not been impactful at all.” 

The union recommended the country be properly locked down just like last year to yield proper results. 

However, Dr. LakKumar Fernando did say that without the current lockdown the Covid-19 situation would have been even worse. 

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) proposed a Sri Lanka lockdown almost 25 days ago and that Sri Lanka would have ‘10,000’ cases and 100 deaths per day in two weeks. The lockdown has prevented that.” 

The AMS also stressed on the importance of stricter measures in carrying out travel restrictions to curtail this pandemic further, as the healthcare facilities are getting overwhelmed with a staggering number of symptomatic cases and the number of patients requiring oxygen. It is reported that the weekly infected patient rate has increased by nearly 12% while the weekly reported death rate has increased by nearly 28% during the past week. 

The health sector is still overwhelmed and the Covid-19 pandemic situation is getting worse by the day, according to the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) who advocated for a daily vaccination rate of 100,000 persons and a vaccines mix and match policy to overcome the impending crisis. 

Dr. Fernando added that the Government should therefore seek to vaccinate at least 50,000 to 100,000 persons per day by making a major effort. It is also needed to ensure that the influential are not given preference when it comes to access to the vaccines, he noted. 

He also said that the vaccines mix and match policy should be seen in a positive light. 

“Giving the Sputnik V anti Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Russia to those who await the second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India is a real choice after conducting a short clinical trial. We are too slow in exploring this possibility,” Dr. Fernando observed. 

Meanwhile, the AMS conveyed its thoughts on the current situation in a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, mentioning a few points which they considered as a way forward to achieve the set targets successfully. 

“All efforts to secure vaccines for the second dose of Covishield to the remaining 600,000 people should be intensified with a clear time frame. If our hopes of getting it soon are beyond the horizon, a scientific assessment of the possible alternatives and any research to that effect should be initiated with the help and advice of the relevant experts as the time is running out very fast and with time, the protection against variants of concern may disappear in no time, if it hasn’t happened already. When rolling out other brands of vaccines, every effort should be made to ensure that an adequate number of vaccines have been set aside as the second dose, for those who have already been given the first dose. Due priority should be given to the immediate family members of all the frontline healthcare workers throughout the island in order to maintain uninterrupted healthcare services as well as to address their concerns that arose due to the preferential vaccination in the recent past. A certain amount of vaccines should be available in Government hospitals for needy patients to be used on the strict recommendation of the relevant medical specialists. A clear and firm vaccination rollout policy should be issued by the Ministry of Health and it should be made public by them to restore the confidence of the public. The authority concerning the vaccine rollout should be vested with the Department of Health Services while the law enforcement authorities should be called in to monitor its implementation under stringent conditions. No one should be allowed to violate this vaccination policy as much as we don’t allow anyone to violate the quarantine regulations during this pandemic.” 

Current lockdown ‘useless’: Medical specialists