Environment not yet 100% suitable to reopen: Hemantha Herath

  • Health Ministry hopeful but not certain of situation

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Health Ministry has stated that although it appears that Sri Lanka is moving towards an environment conducive to lifting the ongoing travel restrictions, owing to reduced Covid-19 infections and deaths, and increased vaccinations, the situation is not yet entirely suitable for reopening the country.

During a media briefing held yesterday (15), Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath was questioned by the media regarding the possibility of reopening the country, given the reduction in the daily numbers of Covid-19 patients and deaths. He responded that although the statistics pointed to a conducive environment being created for the reopening of the country, it is not possible to be 100% satisfied with the current situation.

“Statistically, we are moving towards a green light to reopen the country, but the current situation does not seem to be 100% suitable.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (14), Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President Dr. Padma Gunarathne stated that it is not appropriate to reopen the country at once in the current situation. Instead, she said, it would be appropriate to take steps to reopen the country step by step.

“As a country, we have not yet moved out of the risk zone. We still identify 2,000 Covid-19 infected patients daily, which means that there are about 6,000 patients in the community, and more than 150 Covid-19 deaths a day are still being reported,” she noted.

Dr. Gunarathne added that there is a risk of the virus spreading rapidly, as the Delta (B.1.617.2) Covid-19 variant of Indian origin is the main Covid-19 variant currently spreading in Sri Lanka.

“Considering these facts, the country is still in the red zone. There is still a risk that the hospital capacity will be exceeded.”

When queried about the possibility of reopening the country, she said that steps should be taken to reopen the country step by step using scientific methods. In addition, she suggested that the number of daily polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and rapid antigen tests (RATs) should be increased.