Colombo, August 4 (DailyMirror) – Sri Lanka is heading for its worst medical tsunami in the coming weeks as there is a risk that the Delta variant is spreading beyond control, leading medical experts told Daily Mirror yesterday.
Senior physicians at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic said that hospitals across the Western Province were filled to its brim and more than 2/3rd of the patients presently were oxygen-dependent.
At the Colombo General Hospital alone, all medical wards had been taken to treat COVID-19 patients and till last morning alone, there were 610 COVID positive patients at the National Hospital.
Initially per ward was equipped with four oxygen-equipped beds, which was later tripled to 12 beds per ward. However, with the influx of patients in recent weeks, these beds are also falling short.
“We are struggling to give these patients oxygen not because we lack oxygen, but because we did not expect this much of patients. We were ready with oxygen beds, but this is beyond imagination,” a doctor said.
“I foresee in near future we will have more patients who need oxygen and we will not be able to provide them with oxygen,” the doctor added.
Doctors involved in the battle say that with the present variant suspected to be Delta, in another month Sri Lanka may be headed for its worst medical disaster.
To date, the worst medical disaster Sri Lanka has recorded was when the malaria epidemic spread in 1934-1935, killing an estimated 80,000 people. At that time, one in every 20 people in Sri Lanka had died from the disease.
However, with Delta creating global havoc, doctors fear the COVID19 spread in the coming weeks will be worse than the malaria epidemic.
Colombo has been identified as the hotspot for the Delta variant with Professor in Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Neelika Malavige saying that following sequencing of selected samples in Colombo and suburbs, 20 to 30 per cent of the samples tested positive for the Delta variant by the second week of July. By the end of July, this increased to 75 per cent.
She told Daily Mirror that sequencing was now going on from elsewhere in the country as well but this will not reflect the actual situation.
Doctors believe that the sudden rise of patients in the Western Province is from the Delta but presently it is only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura that is equipped to carry out the sequencing of samples. The Health Ministry will soon begin this as well.
Doctors have added that those who have been vaccinated with only one dose are at a higher risk from the Delta variant, and have urged people to get their vaccinations as soon as possible. Presently, Sri Lanka’s record of vaccinating its citizens above the age of 30 is one of the best in the world, with the government confident of vaccinating the targeted population with at least the first dose by end of August.
However, doctors said that with the country now opening up, people from the other provinces who visit Colombo risk carrying the Delta variant back to those provinces which will cause a further disaster. But with Delta having already made its landfall here, doctors said the country will now have to go through the disaster. They have warned of more infected patients and more deaths caused by the virus in the coming weeks and months.
Medical experts have urged people to wear a tight-fitting mask, and avoid the loose ones, and avoid sitting together for meals inside closed spaces. In fact, they have suggested to not remove the mask in closed spaces and even to drink water, they should go out. People have also been urged to restrict their movements as much as possible (Jamila Husain).