COLOMBO: As Sri Lanka battles the second wave of Covid-19, Army Commander Shavendra Silva, who is at the helm of the pandemic control operations, has declared that this week will be crucial for the island nation since new patients are being reported from different parts of the country.

The total number of Covid-19 positive cases reported initially early October from Minuwangoda garment factory has increased to over 2,016, out of which 1,041 are factory employees and 975 others.

The capital Colombo still operates in a normal manner but with the health regulations such as the wearing of the mask and sanitising of hands made compulsory.

Meanwhile, fear of the pandemic spreading to Colombo has made many housing complexes in the city restricting the entry of outsiders to the premises and all public gatherings prevented as a government directive.

However, open public markets still take place and state and non-state offices in non-Covid affected areas are open, giving a vestige of normalcy to everyday life. The Information Department has instructed all reporters who had been present at the weekly cabinet briefing last week to self-quarantine after a television journalist was identified with the virus.

Overall the current spread of the pandemic seems limited mainly only to the latest cluster stemming from a worker affiliated to a privately owned garment factory, according to official information so far, with a few, upto about 2 to 5 a day being from foreign returnees. However, the latest patients also included 16 policemen and five monks.

According to the Army Commander, Covid-19 patients from 16 districts had been found connected to the apparel factory located in Minuwangoda, a town in the Gampaha district, 35 kilometres from Colombo, which first reported the cluster.

Close contacts of the apparel workers tested positive for Covid-19 have been identified and shifted to quarantine centres. Contact tracing is currently going on while there is still some doubt as to the exact origin of the second wave of the pandemic.

The Army Commander said that the origin of the second wave of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka could be from a foreign country.

The second wave of the pandemic has jolted Sri Lanka out of its near magical spell of eradicating fully the community spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Last month Sri Lanka, bested by China, came in second in terms of Covid-19 epidemic prevention measures, economic recovery and international cooperation, out of 108 countries.

In a survey carried out by the Yicai Research Institute, part of China’s largest financial media group, Yicai Media Group, nine out of the top 10 Covid-19 managed countries were in the Asia-Pacific region.

They are namely South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia and New Zealand, according to the report.

Since October 5 when the new Covid-19 cases surfaced, curfew has been clamped in areas close proximity to Gampaha and the railway department has announced that trains will not be stopping at the related railway stations. From October 18, all departing passengers from Sri Lanka are to compulsorily undergo PCR tests.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2020