Quarantine centres at railway stations

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

In response to trade union action by railway station masters, the Railways Department has planned to set up three centres in the Colombo District for its employees, who have been identified as the associates of Covid-19-infected patients, to undergo quarantine.

When contacted by The Morning to inquire about the plans of the Department to prevent the further spread of Covid- 19 among its employees, General Manager of Railways Dhammika Jayasundara said that arrangements have been made to set aside two centres at Colombo Fort Railway Station and another at Narahenpita Railway Station for the employees who have to undergo the quarantine process.

He said that it is expected to place the required beds and other items within the next few days and that about 100 beds are expected to be located at all three centres. However, Jayasundara said that if any of the employees who would be undergoing quarantine at these centres is found to be infected with Covid-19, they would be referred for treatment.

“It is not possible to keep the infected at these centres, so if any worker becomes infected, they would be referred for treatment,” he said.

He further noted that the relevant officials have been instructed to provide the required hand sanitising liquid, facemasks, and other hygienic equipment to all the railway stations without any delay or shortage.

These steps are being taken following the railway station masters’ 24- hour strike from 12 midnight on 13 August, alleging that the Railway Department has failed to take necessary action regarding the issue of nearly 100 employees of the Department having been infected with the Covid-19 virus.

The Sri Lanka Station Masters’ Union (SLSMU) had also warned that they would launch a continuous strike along with all other trade unions within the Railway Department, if the Transport Ministry and the Department do not take necessary action to prevent a further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic among the employees.

SLSMU General Secretary Kasun Chamara said that although a total of 93 employees of the Transport Sub-Department of the Railway Department have been identified as Covid-19-infected persons, the railway administration has not taken any steps to prevent a further spread of the pandemic within the Department.

He also claimed that in some railway stations where Covid-19-infected staff members have been reported, it has been instructed by the Department to direct the infected staff member for treatments, and use the remaining employees, who have associated the infected, to continue the service.

“It is very dangerous to refer only the infected person for treatment and employ other staff members so that the virus can spread to many more people,” Chamara claimed.

However, when inquired about this allegation, Jayasundara denied it and said that any employee of the Department who is identified to be an associate of a Covid-19-infected person, would be directed to quarantine.