Colombo, August 14 (NewsWire) – The World Health Organization (WHO) expert group on Sri Lanka has warned that the current rapid spread of the coronavirus indicates that Sri Lanka could soon face a health crisis of unprecedented proportions.
At a meeting convened this week, the experts noted with great concern the current surge in COVID-19, stating that it has overwhelmed the capacity of the health systems to provide the required adequate care for the people.
With the current level of mobility/restrictions, cases will rise up to mid-September at 6,000 per day, deaths rising up to early October peaking at around 220 per day, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) peaking at around 275 by early October, and cumulative deaths around 30,000 by January 2022.
If stringency of mobility and social measures is increased similar to May/June 2021 for 4 weeks, cases could be reduced to around 1,000 per day, deaths to less than 25 per day by October, and ICU care to less than 25 per day by October, saving 18,000 lives by January next year, they said.
Urging authorities that it was essential to “ACT NOW”, the experts further said that it is an urgent priority to “SAVE LIVES”, adding that Sri Lanka will avert about 18,000 deaths by January 2022 if the level of stringency is immediately increased for 4 weeks.
“Immediate actions are crucial and critical because it takes a few weeks before measures show a positive impact on the number of infections and hospital admissions. Any delay in implementation will lead to an increase in deaths and will require even more stringent measures,” the expert group warned.
Following are the key recommendations made by the expert group:
- Strictly enforce movement restrictions, including inter-district travel except for essential services. The effective implementation of these measures may require the enforcement of a curfew for a short period, in large geographic areas or nationally.
- Restrict /cancel all public events for 3 weeks.
- Provide care and protect the health workers and augment staffing in hospitals to minimize disruption of essential health services.
- Develop and implement an effective communication plan to engage the public and to update them on the control measures.
- Accurate reporting of both cases and deaths to get a better picture of the ground situation. May also use proxy indicators such as observed Test Positivity Rate (TPR), trends measured using weekly moving averages and time series analysis, mobility data, etc.
- Prioritize to vaccinate all those over 60 years old and those with co-morbidities, preferably with Pfizer, Moderna, or Astra Zeneca because even a single dose of these vaccines provides some degree of protection until the second dose is given.