Sri Lanka sees a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases

Two women wearing masks in Colombo on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: ISHARA S. KODIKARA

Months after successfully containing the spread of the coronavirus, Sri Lanka on Monday reported a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases — whose source remains unclear — raising questions over possible community transmission that authorities have so far denied.

On Monday evening, Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau had recorded at least 101 new cases, in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of COVID-19 cases to about 3,500. Sri Lanka has so far reported 13 deaths since the outbreak in March.

Factory outbreak

Health officials conducted about 2,000 PCR tests after a woman employed in a garment factory in Minuwangoda, about 40 km north of Colombo, tested positive this weekend. Subsequent tests among workers revealed 69 of them were infected and prompted authorities to impose a police curfew in the district. Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, who heads the National Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19, told local news portal Colombo Gazette that “contingency plans were in place”. The government has also urged the public to refrain from non-essential travel and large gatherings.

The recently tested COVID-19 cases come at a time when Sri Lanka is mulling re-opening the country to tourists to help revive its pandemic-hit economy. With its vital export sector and foreign remittances badly affected, Sri Lanka is due to repay some $3 billion of its external debt this year. On Friday, the government settled a $1 billion-worth International Sovereign Bond, amid persisting fiscal strain.

The island nation was among the few countries in the world that contained the spread of infection with early interventions, by public health officials and the Army, including a stringent curfew and aggressive contact tracing.

International leaders and agencies, including the World Health Organization, have commended Sri Lanka’s effective response to the pandemic.

Further, the government has also restricted the return of several thousand Sri Lankan migrant workers, stuck in West Asian countries where they are employed, fearing they might bring home the virus. Though Sri Lanka boasts of a relatively low COVID-19 death rate, 64 Sri Lankan migrant workers have died from contracting COVID-19 so far in their host countries, according to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 2:24:02 AM |

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