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Is Sri Lanka showing symptoms of a third wave?

“Vaccination will not have an immediate impact as it would take 2-3 weeks after the second dose is given for the vaccine to be fully effective”

Machine malfunctions and pandemic mafia 

“There has to be public and social measures to control COVID-19, but the Government doesn’t seem to be doing any of them as of late,” opined All Ceylon Medical Officers Association Secretary Dr. Jayantha Bandara. “One of the first steps is to have border control. PCR tests should be done on all passengers who arrive in the country and they should be sent in for a two weeks quarantine period. But this didn’t happen during the past few months and we saw how the Ukrainian tourists were touring the country. The second step is to do mass scale PCR testing within the country. We have to accept the fact that we are now at the community transmission stage even though the Ministry of Health and the Epidemiology Unit keep on denying it. How can we do PCR testing when the machines are not functioning properly, we are short of reagent supply and laboratory facilities?,” he questioned.“As per the Government statistics less than 1000 positive cases are being reported daily. But we do not know if these are actual figures. Even to do surveillance, we are lacking human and physical resources. Another concern is the ICU bed capacity. When positive cases are admitted to hospital they have to wait in line because the bed capacity is full. The government doesn’t seem to be having any plans to expand these facilities,” he added.Speaking about social measures Dr. Bandara further said that people need to continue with adhering to safety precautions. “If the police see people standing less than one metre apart people will be fined, but is there a mechanism for social distancing in buses and trains? Fining is easy, but necessary infrastructure needs to be in place if people are to follow safety precautions,” he said.

“Several of the vaccines also are not recommended for people who have serious illnesses”

Dr. Bandara further said that people should ignore myths that are being spread about various COVID cures. “A pandemic is a socio-economic and political issue. Many countries that have followed scientific approaches are controlling the pandemic well when opposed to countries that are promoting myths. The pandemic also made many businessmen richer as they have found a market for Rapid Antigen Kits, PCR Kits, masks, hand sanitizers and other essentials people need on a daily basis. They have in fact created a mafia out of the pandemic. The ACMOA has repeatedly said that we need to eliminate COVID-19 and to do that the Government should arrange the funds to achieve this goal.” said Dr. Bandara. 

“Nurses don’t have a break and the authorities are facing a situation where their services are required 24/7”

No break for nurses

“Healthcare workers are at risk and even though we have made several requests the authorities have turned a blind eye to them,” said Public Service United Nurses Union President Ven. Muruthettuwe Ananda Thera. “The virus seems to be spreading fast and many people are testing positive. Nurses don’t have a break and we are facing a situation where their services are required 24/7. But if the authorities don’t pay attention to our requests we would have to opt for trade union action.” said Ven. Ananda. 

“Since all PHIs have been deployed for COVID Control they are unable to attend other duties”

Heavy workload of PHIs

“The virus has not been controlled and cases are being reported from the community,” opined Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union President, Upul Rohana. “There have also been instances when PCR reports have been delayed and misplaced. When patients are being discharged after quarantining there’s no proper mechanism to send them home. Many return home by bus and PHIs have been asked to arrange transport facilities as well.” said Rohana.

But since all PHIs have been deployed for COVID Control they are unable to attend to other duties.  They are working day and night and haven’t even been paid for working overtime. We also have a limited cadre and have made formal requests to increase it by another 1000 PHIs. But we are awaiting a response from authorities,” he added.  

“The bed capacity is also full, but what are the alternatives?”

Priorities neglected 

Although Sri Lanka controlled the pandemic outbreak during its first wave to a greater extent the onset of the second wave posed bigger challenges. “The government is trying to show that it has controlled the second wave because it has started vaccinating people,” opined Government Medical Laboratory Technologists Association President Ravi Kumudesh. “But in reality, PCR tests that were carried out at government institutions have been neglected. Some machines are not working. There are three extraction machines at the Bandaranaike International Airport, but there are no reagents to carry out testing. So the samples taken from passengers go to a different lab and samples from people in Galle, Badulla and other areas come to the lab at the BIA.” said Kumudesh. 

“The number of people testing positive is greater than the number of people recovering. The PCR testing network doesn’t function properly. There are more cases in the community. I believe that we controlled the virus when we had limited facilities. The bed capacity is also full, but what are the alternatives? However, they are trying to show that the situation is under control,” he added. 

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