Association of Medical Specialists calls for district level lockdowns

Coronavirus self-isolation in Sri Lanka

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to impose ‘lockdowns’ at district level with immediate effect to bring the raging COVID-19 pandemic under control.

The AMS has also sought an urgent meeting with President Rajapaksa to explain ways and means of meeting the health challenge. The AMS has stressed the need to revisit what the professional body calls COVID-19 management strategy without further delay.

The AMS has questioned the rationale behind claims that vaccination is a panacea.

The following is the text of a letter titled, ‘Battle against COVID-19: Are we at a tipping point” written jointly by Dr Lakkumar Fernando and Dr. R. Gnanasekeram, President and General Secretary of the AMS, respectively: “As medical specialists serving in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, we strongly believe that Sri Lanka is at a critical stage. Number of new cases keep rising continuously. During last week, the daily number of ‘declared’ new infections have consistently been over 1,800, and went above 2,500 during the last 24 hours. The number of Covid-related deaths too have been increasing steadily, with daily counts of approximately 20, even after a questionable exclusion of those with co-morbidities. We should appreciate at least three times the reported number of new cases do exist in the community.

“We also know that healthcare resources are fast reaching its threshold. Health sector beds and available facilities are almost saturated. Requirement for oxygen is increasing exponentially as we have started seeing more symptomatic patients. ICU beds are almost fully occupied. Healthcare professionals are exhausted and apprehensive with many getting infected with COVID-19 themselves.

“Preliminary predictive disease modelling done by WHO, Geneva, recently with the assumption that current disease trend will continue without any public health interventions, Sri Lanka would most likely be reporting 10,000 cases daily within the next three weeks. If that happens, we can expect the number of deaths to exceed 100 per day. If the country reaches this ‘tipping point’ with the disease spiraling out of control, it would be extremely difficult to recover from that point.

“Some are of the opinion that vaccination is the panacea to all our problems. There are two challenges to that narrative. One is the problems associated with quick access to safe and effective vaccines to cover at least 65-70% of the population with two doses. The time taken for vaccines to provide protection has been widely accepted to be at least three weeks weeks after the second dose. Pending protection from the vaccines which is the key pillar supporting the fight against COVID-19, public health interventions to restrict people’s movements should be the most important tool to avert a disastrous outcome during this critical period.

“Therefore, we urge Your Excellency to impose effective lockdowns at least at district level to restrict people’s movement with immediate effect. The current practice of isolating communities at GN division level is neither preserving economic activity nor controlling transmission of the disease. Whilst assuring the President of our unstinted support to overcome the present challenges and save Sri Lanka from an unprecedented public health catastrophe, we hope the recommendations made by us will be implemented urgently. We also believe that the time has come to revisit Sri Lanka’s management strategy of COVID-19 before it rages out of control.

“We hope and pray that Your Excellency would consider our request and suggestions in the right spirit and in a constructive manner.

We are aware that your Excellency has an extremely busy schedule at present due to a variety of reasons. However, we would be very grateful if you could give us an opportunity to meet you with a group of relevant professionals to explain further why we think some drastic measures are immediately needed.”

(Source: The Island)