Covid-19: Cluster analysis and tracing associates done effectively- Lt. General Shavendra Silva | Sunday Observer

Covid-19: Cluster analysis and tracing associates done effectively- Lt. General Shavendra Silva

11 October, 2020
Health workers on duty
Health workers on duty

“It will get tougher in October and November”, World Health Organisation’s Europe Office Director Hans Kluge told the media last month commenting on the Covid-19 trends in Europe. However, Sri Lanka was complacent having a record better than Europe and most parts of the world in dealing with the pandemic. Social distancing and other key Covid safety guidelines were neglected and people got back to normal life forgetting the need to adhere to safety measures’.  

Sri Lanka had only 127 active Covid-19 cases by October 3 and all of them were overseas arrivals. No patient had been identified from the Community since August 2, according to Chief Epidemiologist, Dr Sudath Samaraweera. Also, the number of Covid suspected patients was 39 by last Sunday. 

However, the number of patients increased with the Covid positive case reported from Divulapitiya, Gampaha on October 4. The patient was identified as an apparel worker of Brandix, Minuwangoda and a week later it become the biggest cluster reported in the country since March. 

Health authorities identified 1,052 Covid-19 patients related to the Brandix cluster by yesterday (10) morning.

Accordingly, the number of Covid-19 cases reported in Sri Lanka increased to 4,523 and the number of active cases rose to 1,214 while around 350 suspected cases are in hospitals. 

However, Dr. Samaraweera assured that Sri Lanka is still not in the social transmission level of Covid-19. “We still do not have clear evidence to say that this has developed to a social transmission level. However, we can decide the direction of the new wave according to PCR tests in the next few days” he said. 

In the wake of the Divulapitiya Covid case, Health Authorities conducted PCR tests on 1,394 Brandix employees of the Minuwangoda factory. The Security Forces launched a mission to trace around 800 other apparel workers of the same factory who had gone on leave. 

The Police and the Security Forces are yet to identify all workers and their close associates of the factory as some are avoiding identification. However, the Police traced a female employee of Brandix, Miniwangoda while she was hiding in Dikoya. 

Police Media spokesperson Senior DIG, Ajith Rohana told the media on Friday that the grace period given to those who had gone missing had lapsed.

A health worker sprays disinfectant on a street  in Minuwangoda

“Maximum action will be taken against those avoiding identification and the immovable assets used for hiding will be seized,” he said. 

The Minuwangoda cluster which has spread throughout the country had worsened the social transmission of the pandemic, according to health authorities. According to the authorities Covid contacts have been identified in Nikaweratiya, Nelumdeniya and Warakapola in the Kegalle district, Nivithigala, Ratnapura, Godakawela, Kalawana, Imbulpe, Ayagama in the Ratnapura district, Colombo, Koggala, Ginthota, Manikattuwa, Kandy, Kiriella, Chilaw, Kalpitiya, Negombo, Mannar, Jaffna and Biyagama.  

A woman was reported dead while travelling to the Welikanda quarantine centre. The Welikanda Police said medical tests had confirmed she has died due to a stroke. Her body was cremated in Aralaganwila in keeping with quarantine regulations. The deceased was a 64-year-old mother of four from Warapalana, Gampaha, a.

Opposition MP Manusha Nanayakkara queried in Parliament the truth in bringing down Indian workers and accommodating them at the Brandix Minuwangoda factory without adhering to quarantine guidelines.

However, on the same day Army Commander and Head of the National Covid Operation Centre, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva refuted the claim. Officials of Brandix too responded to several allegations made against them via social and web media. 

Releasing a statement for the second time on October 7, Brandix officials said that neither anyone from India nor other country had visited the Minuwangoda factory. While admitting the fact that Sri Lankan employees of Brandix in India were brought back via three chartered flights, the company also affirmed that the government-mandated 28 day quarantine period was adhered to by all the employees and their families. 

“We understand that there have been concerns with regard to foreign nationals working at our facility in Minuwangoda and would like to clarify as follows.

We can confirm that no parties from India or any other country have had access to the facility during this period. We would also like to clarify that our facility in Minuwangoda does not use any fabric from India nor has it taken in any orders from our facility in India as well”.

Chartered flights

“With regard to concerns on employees returning to Sri Lanka from India through chartered flights, we can confirm as follows. We operated three chartered flights from Visakhapatnam, India for our Sri Lankan employees working in India and their families, who returned to Sri Lanka. We confirm that they, including their families, followed the Sri Lanka Government protocol for the prevention and control of Covid-19, which includes PCR testing and a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a government-regulated quarantine facility, as well as the 14-day self- quarantine process done under the supervision of the respective PHIs. It must also be noted that none of these Sri Lankans nor their family members visited the Minuwangoda manufacturing facility”.

“As an organisation, we rally together to care for the affected employees and their families, whilst endeavouring to minimise the impact on our communities and our nation in a collective effort to emerge from this crisis”.

However, even after the official statement from Brandix, several social media activists urged Brandix to declare details pertaining to arrival dates, dates and places quarantine of workers who came from India claiming the official statement from Brandix lacked vital information.  

Following the sudden health emergency, the Gampaha District Health Division has decided to seek the services of public health inspectors of other districts to meet the shortage of PHIs in the district. Ten PHI officers from the Puttalam District have already extended their services strengthening the 175 PHI carder in the Gampaha district.

The Welikanda Covid Treatment Center in Polonnaruwa which could house around 110 patients has also reached its fullest capacity, health officials reported last week. 

Police curfew was imposed in Gampaha, Ganemulla, Kirindiwela, Dompe, Malwathuhiripitiya, Mirigama, Nittambuwa, Pugoda, Veyangoda, Minuwangoda, Weerangula, Weliveriya, Pallewela, Yakkala, Ja-ela, Kandana, Seeduwa and Divulapitiya.

However, Lt. General Shavendra Silva told the media yesterday that islandwide curfew will not be imposed immediately as analysis of the cluster and tracing of close contacts are being carried out effectively.