Lockdown till 18th, open gradually: Sri Lanka Medical Association

  • Says lockdown should be at most until 2 October

By Pamodi Waravita

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) yesterday (5) recommended that the ongoing travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 be extended till at least 18 September, and suggested a “gradual” reopening of the country.

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday, SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratna said that it is best if the current travel restrictions are extended till at least Saturday (18), adding that the resumption of normal activities must be done gradually.

“Public transport, weddings, and closed-door functions are all places where the virus can spread faster. Even if the country is opened up, these activities must not be immediately resumed as normal. The SLMA’s expert committee on Covid-19 has made our recommendations to the Health Ministry already,” said Dr. Gunaratna.

According to the report by the SLMA, the lockdown should preferably be extended at most until 2 October to enable the achievement of the “green status” for tourism, which will ensure an early economic recovery. The SLMA states that it has made this recommendation based on the sixth Independent Technical Expert Group Meeting, convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 26 August. This group had said that, to achieve the green status to support the revival of tourism, Sri Lanka must report less than 950 cases per day, with a test positivity rate of less than 2.5%.

The SLMA has also consulted data from the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit and the report by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine’s Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit, which has identified the 100% prevalence of the Delta variant in Colombo.

“Even this level of travel restrictions is good for society. We have noticed a small slackening of the steady rise of cases. This, along with the switch to home treatment for non-serious cases, has been a great relief to our healthcare system. However, now we must prepare to open the country gradually and be cautious of places where the virus spreads faster,” said Dr. Gunaratna.

The Government announced last Friday (3) that the ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions will be extended till 13 September. The WHO has stated that the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of the Covid-19 virus is at least two times as transmissible as the original virus. Sri Lanka is currently facing a severe spread of the Delta variant in all districts. The Health Ministry’s Health Promotion Bureau said that 3, 333 new cases and 145 new deaths were reported on 4 September due to the virus.