Preparing for a possible third wave of the coronavirus following a recent spike in cases, Sri Lanka on Monday said all schools in the Western Province, where capital Colombo is located, and the North Western Province will be closed.
Over the last few days, Sri Lanka recorded about 800 cases or more a day, taking the total number of cases reported in the island to over one lakh, and the number of fatalities to 644, as of Monday morning. Over 6,000 cases are currently active. The National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak reported 892 positive cases on Monday.
Several public health commentators attributed the recent surge in cases to gatherings around the Sinhala and Tamil New Year that was celebrated on April 14. With a near 22 million-strong population, Sri Lanka made news last year for effectively containing the pandemic’s spread, with a stringent lockdown. However, subsequent clusters emerged, posing a huge challenge for the government, which is also faced with a severe economic blow since the pandemic.
“We are carrying out research to see if these [recent cases] are of a new variant,” the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera said. “Hospitals are reporting that they are receiving many younger patients who are in need of oxygen support or ICU beds,” he told The Hindu.
It is with the aim of reviving its economy and boosting foreign earnings that Sri Lanka opened its borders earlier this year. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka began a “travel bubble” with India that authorities said will continue despite the raging wave in India, despite earlier announcing a postponement of the arrangement.
Sri Lanka has so far administered the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine to 925,242 people, the President’s office said in a statement. Sri Lanka commenced its vaccination drive in late January, after India gifted 5,00,000 doses of Covishield vaccine. Sri Lanka has placed further orders with India, and is sourcing the Russian made ‘Sputnik’ vaccine, Sinopharm from China. In addition, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation has already signed the preliminary agreements required for the importation of the Pfizer vaccine and the Government is in the process of importing the vaccine as soon as possible,” the statement said.