Coronavirus | Sri Lanka needs to scale up testing, say govt. doctors

Number of positive cases reported in Sri Lanka so far is 146

April 02, 2020 12:03 am | Updated December 03, 2021 06:39 am IST - Colombo

A special unit of the Sri Lankan police patrolling a street during a curfew in Kalutara

A special unit of the Sri Lankan police patrolling a street during a curfew in Kalutara

A powerful trade union of government doctors in Sri Lanka has urged authorities to scale up testing to contain the spread of COVID-19 cases within the country. The number of positive cases reported in Sri Lanka so far is 146.

Also read | Opposition urges Sri Lankan govt. to reconvene Parliament

According to the Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA), around 80% of the patients infected by SARS_CoV-2 show mild symptoms. “Hence, there is the possibility that they will remain unidentified as carriers of the new coronavirus... those who are in close contact with them too will go undetected unless they start showing symptoms. If tests are carried out, they can be identified early,” the GMOA said in a statement published in the Daily FT .

Sri Lanka’s state-run Medical Research Institute and eight other designated centres are currently conducting COVID-19 tests, according to health officials. So far, nearly 2,500 tests have been conducted in all.

Also read | Sri Lanka reports first death, terms Chennai COVID-19 ‘high-risk zone’

“We are still largely testing only those with suspected symptoms,” Dr. Nalinda Herath of the GMOA, which is also known to be politically influential. “We have conveyed this to the government and hope they will scale up the tests soon,” he told The Hindu.

‘Don’t lift curfew’

The GMOA has also suggested that the government should not lift the curfew — which it has been doing in select districts pointing to the higher risk of transmission on days when people gather in public places. Sri Lanka has been on a nationwide curfew for over 10 days now, with the government partially lifting it in select districts for a few hours. On Tuesday, health authorities reported 21 cases, the highest number detected since the coronavirus outbreak in Sri Lanka. According to a situation report released by the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, Colombo district has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country — a total of 32 of the total 146.

Direct-General of Health Services Anil Jasinghe said health authorities were planning to carry out sample testing among those in “high risk groups”. “So far, we have confined testing to those who are in quarantine centres, but we want to get an assessment of the spread of the virus in the community. For this, we plan to start sample testing shortly,” Dr. Jasinghe said, according to media reports.

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