Health guidelines and vaccines only way out  

  • Majority of infected, dead are over 60 and not inoculated 
  • Vaccines used in SL proven to be effective against Delta variant 
  • Census to be conducted on those not vaccinated yet: Weeratunga 
  • Vaccination of persons between 12-30 years being discussed  

By Yumiko Perera 

While the total number of daily Covid-19 cases that stood at 1,400 recently progressively increased to nearly 2,500 over the past week, health authorities fear that if the present situation prevails, we may have to face the consequences of our own undoing. They urged the public to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 health guidelines. 

Sri Lanka, over the past week, surpassed the 300,000 mark in Covid-19 cases. However, nearly 275,000 individuals have recovered thus far, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Delta widespread   

The health authorities say they have enough reason to believe that the Indian Delta variant, which is said to be more transmissible than previous mutations of the virus and has a higher rate of mortality, may be widespread throughout the country, given the sudden spike in fresh cases as of late. 

Furthermore, as per reported statistics, there is also a significant rise in the number of patients that require hospitalisation, which is adding further pressure to the health sector of the country. 

Meanwhile, the focus of the health sector as well as the Covid-19 Task Force is once again on immunising those above the age of 60 in order to reduce the number of Covid-19-related deaths, The Sunday Morning learnt.  

The health authorities are focused on further accelerating the Covid-19 vaccination programme so as to ensure that a high percentage of the population is vaccinated with both doses. 

According to Ministry of Health Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige, nearly 80% of the deaths that have been reported have been of individuals above the age of 60, and those who had other comorbidities. He further noted that most of these individuals had not been inoculated. 

Speaking to the media last week, Dr. Ginige stated: “The priority remains (to inoculate) those above the age of 60, as they seem to be the most vulnerable group. Therefore, we urge them to come and get vaccinated as soon as possible.” 

Strengthening basic preventive measures a necessity 

Addressing concerns over speculation that vaccines are ineffective in preventing infection and hospitalisation, Dr. Ginige noted that as per the evidence available at present, the vaccines that are being used in the country have all proven to be effective against the Delta variant, and have generated a satisfactory level of immunity among the masses. 

“When the number of cases is rising globally, we need to understand that we must take maximum measures to prevent any further spread of the virus, as mutated strains spread rapidly. And given that the random sampling technique that we use has detected the Delta variant in certain clusters, we must be extra cautious,” he noted. 

Moreover, he added that the main takeaway should be to understand that regardless of the variant of the virus, preventive measures must be taken, especially by following the Covid-19 health guidelines, which are paramount in slowing down the spread of the virus. Although the vaccines provide immunity, that alone does not suffice in protecting one from the virus, said Dr. Ginige, adding that strengthening basic preventive measures are an absolute necessity. 

Don’t take situ lightly: Dr. Hemantha Herath 

Speaking with The Sunday Morning, Public Health Services Director General and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath noted that the total number of Covid-19 cases being reported has risen significantly and that the public should not by any means take the situation lightly. 

“While we can’t rule out that the Delta variant may have an impact on the sudden spike in cases, what is important is to take the necessary measures to slow down the spread of the virus while continuing with our day-to-day activities. 

“If everyone makes sure that they are doing their part to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of the others, I believe that we can at least slow down the spread of the virus,” he noted. 

Ministry ready to face any oxygen demand 

Furthermore, adding that the number of patients that require hospitalisation owing to the virus has increased, Dr. Herath noted that the country is fully capable of accommodating a potential demand for oxygen in the future and that several measures are underway at the Ministry of Health to make sure there is plenty of buffer capacity available. 

Meanwhile, at a media briefing held at the President’s Media Division (PMD), Covid-19 Vaccine Committee Chairman and Senior Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga stated that a census is to be carried out on people who have not obtained Covid-19 vaccines. 

According to Weeratunga, most of the Covid-19-related deaths were of those who had not obtained the vaccine at all as well as those who had only obtained one dose. 

He further noted that the Government expects to administer approximately 11.5 million doses before the end of August for those above the age of 30 years, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Furthermore, approximately four million doses would be offered under the second phase of this drive, according to Weeratunga. He further noted that measures are underway to administer vaccines for those between the ages of 12 to 30 as well. 

Stating that the Government aims to vaccinate at least 15 million persons before the end of this year, Weeratunga further added that discussions would be underway in the future with the health sector as well as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to determine whether the country would make it mandatory for the people to obtain vaccines, The Sunday Morning learnt.