Sri Lanka to continue lockdown till Sept 6, but experts want it extended further

Amid rising Covid 19 cases, the Sri Lankan government has extended the ongoing islandwide lockdown till September 6, but experts feel extending it to October 2 could save an estimated 10,000 lives at an economic cost of 2.2 percent of GDP

Aug 27, 2021
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Sri Lanka to continue lockdown

Amid rising Covid 19 cases, the Sri Lankan government has extended the ongoing islandwide lockdown till September 6, but experts feel extending it to October 2 could save an estimated 10,000 lives at an economic cost of 2.2 percent of GDP.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella on Friday (August 27) announced that the 10-day lockdown that was started on August 20 following a surge in Covid related deaths would be extended by another week.

The decision was taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Covid-19 Task Force meeting on Friday morning.

However, drawing from a projection model by the Monash University in Australia, an independent group of experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Sri Lanka on the island nation’s COVID-19 situation highlighted an urgent need to extend stringency measures with strong enforcement and household compliance.

The group felt the lockdown should be continued either till September 18 or up to October 2 for even better results.

The impact on the economy if the lockdown is continued to those two dates will be USD 1.67 billion (1.9 percent of GDP) and USD 2.2 billion (2.5 percent of GDP), the experts said in a report published Thursday.

 “Overall, global and local evidence indicates that economies bounce back quickly once stringencies are removed,” they added.

The experts said the virus is now spreading within households and hospitals are at full capacity with health workers also getting infected as supplies including oxygen run critically low.

“The health system would have some time to recover from extreme pressure including shortage of beds and critical supplies like oxygen,” they said.

The group called for “enforcement of stringent measures with compliance of the public to reinforce accelerated vaccination” and a “social support system for the vulnerable population”.

Sri Lanka confirmed a record 209 Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday (August 25), the first time daily deaths attributed to the disease have passed 200, taking the island nation’s death toll from the epidemic to 8,157.

The government information department also confirmed 4,602 new infections for Thursday, bringing total cases in Sri Lanka to 412,370.

Weekly Covid-19 cases in Sri Lanka have increased by 40 percent this week, making the island nation one of three exceptions in the South East Asian region which has shown a 16 percent decrease overall, according to another WHO report.

The experts also called for the completion of Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout in the face of the rapidly spreading delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Over 12.2 million Sri Lankans have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far, a little over half of whom are fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 percent of the over-30 population have received one dose, while about 53 percent have received both shots, according to ECONOMYNEXT.

(SAM)

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