A number of Medical Associations have called for an uninterrupted 14-day islandwide lockdown to be imposed in Sri Lanka to curtail the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
The appeal has been made together by the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) and Sri Lanka Medical Intercollegiate Committee (SMIC) representing all medical professional associations.
The Associations pointed out that despite 3000 Covid cases being detected in the community at present, the actual number is nearly three times that of which is currently detected.
They have further issued a 7-point letter justifying their call for a continuous two-week islandwide lockdown.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) along with the Government Medical Officers Association, Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) and Sri Lanka Medical Intercollegiate Committee (SMIC) representing all medical professional associations, release this media statement to state reasons for the medical professionals to request the Government of Sri Lanka a lockdown or curfew.
We wish to thank the Government in general for the steps taken in recent days, accommodating our repeated requests and suggested initiatives to curb the escalating numbers of new coronavirus infections and the increasing number of deaths due to COVID Pneumonia.
All medical professionals, both in the preventive sector, as well as and especially in the curative sector, wish to inform public that it will not be long before the hospitals are flooded with patients, completely inundated and the medical staff are stretched way beyond their capacity, resulting in a serious breakdown of our health sector all over the country.
As the current state of the infection is of very high transmissibility, it does not appear as if any of the steps implemented so far have been good enough or effective enough to achieve any kind of control of the infection.
It is known to scientists that when the detected number of cases in the community if over 3000, the actual number in the community is more than three times the number detected.
When the infection is spreading this extensively, there is no country that has managed to contain the infection without a strict lockdown (or curfew) being declared.
As such, while acknowledging the very significant short-term hardships the common man will have to face, we see no option other than a strictly implemented mobility restriction as an effective strategy that is left to contain the infection.
Therefore, we together and in unison, most respectfully demand the government to go for a minimum two weeks (14 days) lockdown or even a curfew, continuously and at a stretch, of the entire country, considering the following scientific observations.
1. Minimum 14 days would cover two cycles of incubation periods of the infection that is likely to be adequate to break the chain of uncontrolled spread of the disease.
2. The infection is rampant in all provinces, making inter-provincial travel restrictions to be of no useful benefit at this stage of the outbreak.
3. As isolation of Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions occur with a 5 – 7day delay following the detection of cases, isolation of GN Divisions does not serve the purpose of restricting the transmission of infection. By the time the GN divisions are isolated, the infection with an inherent very high transmissibility has spread way beyond the GN divisions.
4. Country-wide lockdown for just a few days at a stretch will not have any significant effect on the case load or transmission of the disease as it does not cover even one incubation period to reduce infectivity and transmission of the infection.
5. Repeated, intermittent and short lockdowns, with people coming together for work in enclosed areas following this, will not have any benefit on the economy as it will only create a scenario that will only increase the numbers of COVID-19 cases within these premises.
6. Letting people go out according to National Identity Card numbers is unlikely to serve any purpose at this stage of infection characterised by very high transmissibility.
7. Allowing public transport with seated passengers, 25% of capacity of customers in supermarkets, restaurants (dining in), hotels, rest houses, shopping malls, shops etc will increase the number of cases at this stage of spread of infection in the community.
In addition, a 14-day complete lockdown or a curfew at a stretch at this crucial juncture will have a much healthier impact on the economy, in the formal as well as the informal sectors,and the health sector, rather than isolating sections of the country randomly or by interprovincial travel restrictions.
The Government should keep people informed in advance of the decision to declare a lockdown or a curfew.
That would enable the populace to attend to their essential needs in advance. Hospitals should also make use of the interval to streamline and upgrade the services to be made available to patients, including special care and intensive care facilities and optimal supplies of oxygen.
Upon completion of two weeks, while people will have to continue to adhere to public health measures with facial masks and social distancing, the Government will have to continue with the restrictions that have been stated at present over next few more months.
We earnestly hope that the Government and the public would take our suggestions in a positive manner as all of us professionals feel that we, as experts in the healthcare field, need to offer our considered advice to you at this crucial time to take the correct decisions for our country and its people.
We, thank all, in anticipation of urgent attention to the sentiments expressed in this communication.
Dr. Padma Gunaratne
Sri Lanka Medical Association