Reopening should only happen in stages

  •  Public Health DDG echoes SLMA’s advice 

By Buddhika Samaraweera

The Health Ministry has pointed out that the reopening of the country should take place only after taking the necessary steps to address certain issues that may arise after such a reopening, and should only be done in several stages.

“We have to reopen the country, but it has to be done in a few stages. However, we should not go ahead without addressing the issues that may arise after reopening the country or relaxing the quarantine curfew lockdown status to some level. It is not only the duty of the health authorities to address them, and therefore, everybody should take part and make sure that there will be no further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath told The Morning.

Taking into account the rapid spread of Covid-19 and the increase in the number of Covid-19 deaths in the country, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on 20 August, declared a quarantine curfew lockdown status till 30 August, which was then extended till 6 September. At a meeting attended by high-level government officials on 10 September, the lockdown status was once again extended to 21 September, and subsequently, on 17 September, the President’s Media Division (PMD) announced that the lockdown status would be in effect till 4 a.m. on 1 October 2021.

Meanwhile, pointing out that the current number of daily Covid-19 infections is two or three times higher than the number of cases reported during the previous occasions where the country reopened, the Health Ministry recently stated that the current situation is not 100% suitable for reopening the country.

Speaking to the media on an earlier occasion, Dr. Herath said that there is no suitable environment for reopening the country so far, but added, however, that the country is moving towards that environment. “I am not saying that the reduction of Covid-19 infections and deaths is a green light to reopen the country, but we are moving towards that green light,” he noted.

Addressing a recent media briefing, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President Dr. Padma Gunarathne also stated that it is not appropriate to reopen the country at once when considering the current situation. Instead, she said, it would be appropriate to take steps to reopen the country step by step.