The Sri Lanka Medical Association and the Intercollegiate Committee have written to President Gotabaya Rajapakse asking for an extension of the travel restrictions that are currently in place. The Association of Medical Specialists also wrote a similar letter three days ago. The Army Commander announced yesterday these travel restrictions will be relaxed, albeit with limitations, on the 14th of June.  

‘We are still seeing an increase in deaths and the number of daily Covid positive cases’, said Dr LakKumar Fernando.  ‘Lifting these travel restrictions is not the right decision. Dr.Fernando who is the Chairman of the Association of Medical Specialists said whatever that is going to happen after the 14th should not be an over relaxation of what we have now as it could lead to an exponential rise in the number of infections. Even now, travel restrictions are not being enforced strictly with a significant number of pedestrians and vehicles on the road.

Sri Lanka’s infection rate is still increasing, averaging at about 3000 cases a day.  It leaves the country in a situation which is doubly worse than India. In India, where the population is 66 times more than Sri Lanka the daily total new case number is around 100, 000 cases and if this were to be compared with the Sri Lankan average would hike it up to around 200, 000 cases a day.  

The number of Covid deaths, albeit backdatedbecause of the backlog, have also been increasing and the actual data relating to the current spread will become known only in the coming weeks.  

The current travel restrictions would not only have plateaued the number of daily infections and deaths but also contained the spread of the Indian or Delta variant of the virus. In Britain, which has been in the grip of the highly transmissible Alpha or UK variant as it is commonly called, the Delta variant is threatening to overtake this dominant strain.  This variant 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.  Professors NeelikaMalavige and Chandima Jeewandara lead the team of scientists which carries out genome sequencing at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.  They tweeted today that there are 80 persons in multiple locations who have been identified with the Alpha variant and one person in a quarantine centre who has been detected with the Delta variant.

The country’s troubled vaccination program, mismanaged because of political interference and a lack of planning and crippled without a continuous supply of vaccines, is making slow progress.  In terms of availability the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has become the most reliable product with some quantities arriving in the country at regular intervals.  Close to 65, 000 Sinopharm vaccines are being administered daily at the moment but the ideal should hover around the 100, 000 mark for which Sri Lanka will need a monthly supply of three million vaccines and a total of six million in two months to complete the second jab after a four week interval just to vaccinate three million people.  ‘This will vaccinate 20 percent of the population’, points out Dr Fernando who assures the country has the human resource capacity to conduct this drive if the vaccine is available, but there is more to do to reach more countrywide coverage fast.(SW)


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