Lockdown urged in Sri Lanka as Delta spike overwhelms hospitals

Calls from Sri Lankan healthcare personnel are growing louder by the day for the government to immediately impose a nationwide lockdown or curfews as a Delta-fuelled surge in Covid-19 cases sweep the country.

The proposal, if implemented, would affect tourist arrivals into the country.

Overcrowding on public transport has led to a Covid surge in Sri Lanka; commuters at the Colombo Fort Railway Station pictured

The number of new daily Covid-19 cases in Sri Lanka is nearing 3,000, with 2,953 cases and more than 110 deaths reported on Monday (August 9), bringing the total tally to 332,947 infections with 5,222 deaths. In just two weeks, the daily number of cases has sharply risen from 1,711 on July 28.

State hospitals across the country are reported to be overflowing with limited beds available for new Covid-19 patients, while hotels designated as intermediate care centres have also reached their capacity.

On Tuesday (August 10), the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) urged the government to impose a lockdown or curfew as it is the only effective means of curtailing people’s movement in the country.

AMS president Lakkumar Fernando said with the Delta variant engulfing Sri Lanka, nearly all hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout the country have reached maximum capacity.

“The capacity to accommodate Covid-19 patients has virtually reached its tipping point. More disturbingly, there (has been) a daily exponential rise in the number of oxygen-dependent patients,” he said.

Sri Lanka had ordered all state workers who were working from home to return to their workplaces on August 2, leading to a surge in Covid-19 cases due to overcrowding on public transportation and prompting calls among medical specialists for a lockdown or curfew to be enforced.

Domestic tourism, which regional hotels were desperate to secure, has also been affected by an ongoing ban on inter-region transport over the past few weeks.

According to Sri Lanka Tourism, 203 foreign tourists contracted Covid-19 while on holiday in Sri Lanka in the period from end December 2020 to July 31, 2021. All foreign tourists who test positive for Covid-19 while in Sri Lanka are isolated at either a hotel-turned-intermediate care centre or a hospital with expenses covered by the mandatory Covid-19 insurance.

The airport reopened in mid-January, following a visit by a group of tourists from the former Soviet republics in December 2020 under a pilot project to test the efficacy of Sri Lanka’s travel bubble for arriving tourists.

As of July 31, a total of 19,337 tourists visited Sri Lanka this year, marking a decline of 96.2 per cent from last year when 507,311 tourists visited the country from January through March 18, 2020 when the airport closed.

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