Sri Lanka may soon face an unprecedented health crisis: WHO

Amid reports of Sri Lanka’s medical sector plunging into a crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the country could soon face a health crisis of unprecedented proportions

Aug 14, 2021
Sri Lanka unprecedented health crisis

Amid reports of Sri Lanka’s medical sector plunging into a crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the country could soon face a health crisis of unprecedented proportions.  

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ruled out imposing a nationwide lockdown but opted for tougher travel restrictions.

The experts have expressed concern the current surge in Covid-19 is nearly overwhelming the capacity of the health systems to provide the required adequate care for the people.

The experts say Sri Lanka will avert about 18,000 deaths by January 2022 if the level of restrictions is immediately increased similar to May 2021 for 4 weeks.

This will give the required time to accelerate vaccination and achieve the level of protection following the second dose of vaccines; as well as for the health system to recover from the overwhelming caseload.

The WHO said bed occupancy rates at all levels of care facilities (over 85 percent) and ICUs (over 90 percent) have increased progressively and are now in full capacity.

Patients dependent on oxygen have significantly increased from 528 last week to 646 patients. If the trend continues, there is the inevitability of a serious shortage of oxygen supply and interruption of care.

A significant number of health workers are getting infected with consequent pressure for curtailment and closure of services. All indications are that the staff are exhausted and struggling, Daily Mirror reported.

The Monash University, Australia in collaboration with WHO SEAR and Sri Lanka County Office did some projections on notified cases and deaths, assuming 50 percent of the population will be fully vaccinated by August 2021 end.

At current levels of mobility restrictions, the number of cases would increase up to mid-September at 6,000 cases/ day, with deaths up to early October coming to a peak at around 220 deaths/day. ICU admission will peak at around 275 by early October with cumulative deaths around 30,000 by Jan 2022. But note that since we have not yet achieved the vaccine coverage assumed in the model, the projections are an under-estimate.

At increased levels of stringency for 4 weeks, the country will have fewer numbers of cases of around 1,000  a day, deaths less than 25 a day and ICU care to less than 25 a day by October 2021 and avert 18,000 deaths by Jan 2022.

The experts have recommended vaccination of 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.
Doctors predict that the number of Oxygen-dependent patients may rise to 1,000 in the coming days triggering a higher Oxygen demand.

Presently there are two companies in Sri Lanka supplying Oxygen to hospitals, and the government has assured it would import Oxygen if a shortage arises. Presently no Oxygen shortage has been reported.

Doctors suspect that the Delta variant has caused an exponential increase in the number of Covid-19 patients and although official figures estimate 2,500 to 2,800 patients per day, the numbers may be as high as 4,000.

President Rajapaksa held a high-level review meeting with ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Lalith Weeratunga, state minister Channa Jayasumana and DG Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena.

Jayasumana later said while a decision was taken not to impose a lockdown, the discussion focused on controlling the prevailing situation.


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