Renewed travel restrictions loom 

  • Health Ministry notes disregard of guidelines, even by health workers 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Health Ministry has warned that if people continue to disregard the Covid-19 related health guidelines, the Government and the other relevant authorities will have to resort to precautionary measures such as the re-imposition of travel restrictions, in order to prevent another wave of Covid-19.

When contacted by The Morning, Health Ministry’s Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath said that although it is not possible to say as to how and when the travel restrictions would be imposed, the Government and the health authorities would have to take precautionary measures if the people continue to ignore the health guidelines.

He added: “It is not possible to say that travel restrictions will not have to be imposed given the current situation. At the time of the last Covid-19 pandemic wave, we imposed such restrictions when there were about 5,000 Covid-19 patients a day. Eventually, it got to a stage where about 50,000 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals, and travel restrictions were imposed.” 

Dr. Herath further said that the same situation could happen again if the people continue to disregard the health guidelines when there are no travel restrictions in place. “Last time, we tried our best to control the pandemic without imposing travel restrictions, but we failed. So I don’t think that we should wait any longer this time,” he added.

He also stressed that everyone should therefore follow the health guidelines and act responsibly. Emphasising that the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths reported on a daily basis at present cannot be underestimated, Dr. Herath said that the situation could be the beginning of the next Covid-19 wave.

According to the Epidemiology Unit, Sri Lanka, as of 11.30 a.m. yesterday (8), had recorded 13,856 Covid-19 deaths while the total number of infections stood at 545,256 of which a total of 515,183 patients have recovered. 

Dr. Herath further emphasised that health workers should always set an example to the public by following the Covid-19-related health guidelines to the fullest extent possible, after recently stating that health workers including doctors have been reported to be violating health guidelines by appearing for photographs without wearing facemasks.

When inquired about this, Dr. Herath told The Morning that there have been a number of incidents where even consultant doctors have appeared in photographs without wearing masks and then posted such on social media platforms. He said that by doing so, the people would be tempted to disregard the health guidelines.

Meanwhile, when questioned as to whether the Health Ministry has the capacity to take any action against such health workers who are said to be acting in violation of the prescribed health guidelines, he noted: “It is not practical to take action because they may say that the facemask was removed only to pose for a photo.” 

However, he said that no one would expect health workers to violate health guidelines, adding that they should therefore set an example to the people and follow those guidelines to the maximum extent possible.