Bangla Friday, May 29, 2020

No new COVID-19 cases in Lanka but Colombo and two other districts under indefinite curfew

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Sri Lanka did not record any new COVID-19 positive case on Wednesday, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said. That was the silver lining in the dark cloud that had cast its shadow on the island nation of 21 million people.

On Tuesday, crowds had surged in market places throughout the country to buy necessities during the six hour interval in the curfew. In the highly populated districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, there was panic buying. Every shop and supermarket had serpentine queues of people standing in the sun for hours. Many had to return disappointed and exhausted because stocks had run out. Social distancing was observed largely because of police surveillance.

Seeing the agony of the people, and feeling that the short window to buy essentials was actually encouraging crowd formation and increasing the risk o infection, the government extended the break in the curfew from 12 noon to 2 pm. This released the pressure on the people.

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There are currently 99 patients in hospitals after they were tested positive for the virus and three patients have been discharged after fully recovering. According to the Health Ministry, 225 persons are currently in hospitals with symptoms of COVID-19 virus.

With all eyes on how he and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government will handle this crisis in Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appealed to international donor agencies to provide debt relief to vulnerable, developing nations who have been hit by the COVID-19 virus, his office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement said President Rajapaksa had urged the Director General of the World Health Organization to forward this request to multi-lateral and bilateral lending agencies.

“The President pointed out that this relief would be helpful to manage COVID-19 Social Distancing, Public Health and Social Security Systems in these countries,” the statement said.

On Tuesday, the Districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara were declared as COVID-19 ‘high risk’ areas and an indefinite curfew was imposed there.

What was seen in Colombo prompted the government, which faces a general election this year, to arrange for essential items to be delivered to homes. A statement by the President’s office said that essential items including medicines will be delivered at peoples’ doorsteps as the public had been banned from leaving their homes until further notice.

Read Also: Lanka’s opposition party, UNP on the threshold of a split

The President’s Office said that to ensure the smooth operation of delivering essential consumer goods to each household, a Special Task Force had been established. Vehicles used for delivery of these goods are to be permitted on the roads during the curfew period. While in the districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara, the curfew will be continuous without a break, in other places there will be breaks.

Separately, the Sri Lankan National Cricket Team donated an undisclosed sum of money to the National Hospital, which is to be spent on purchasing much-needed medical equipment to help the country to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Local media reported on Wednesday that Sri Lanka Cricket confirmed that orders had been placed for several video laryngoscopes, equipment that would significantly improve treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The generous donation from the National Team came following a request made to the general public for help, following Sri Lanka Cricket’s donation of Rs. 25 million towards a COVID-19 fund.

Meanwhile, in a warning to stores that will seek to exploit consumers in this difficult time, the office of a popular retail website- Kapruka.com- based in Colombo was seized by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Wednesday for selling goods for exorbitant prices and steps were taken to file legal action against the company.