Big gap in COVID-19 figures issued by Health Ministry’s two units

Ministry of Health Sri Lanka

There is a major discrepancy in the COVID-19 case numbers being issued by two units of the Health Ministry.

The ministry’s ‘COVID-19 Operational Room’ reported the ‘first time positive cases’ for Friday (August 13) up to 10 p.m. as 4,137 from 18,174 RT-PCRs done. There were also 1,064 positive cases from 6,883 Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs). This brought the total of positive cases for the day to 5,201.

Even though the ministry’s Epidemiology Unit had not  released its figures of positive cases for Friday, the Department of Government Information which takes its cue from it, released the figure as 3,152, leaving a gap of 2,049.

The Sunday Times found there were other instances of similar discrepancies such as on August 11 (Wednesday) and 12 (Thursday). Here too the COVID-19 Operational Room had a higher case load, as many as 2,427 and 2,832 unlike the Epidemiology Unit.

It is these incorrect and lower Epidemiology Unit data that are also being disseminated by the Health Promotion Bureau, the Department of Government Information and also the Presidential Secretariat’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

Some earlier daily reports of the ‘Performance of COVID-19 PCR Centres’ on August 8 and 9 seem to validate the figures being put out by the COVID-19 Operational Room rather than those of the Epidemiology Unit.

Meanwhile, looking at the vaccination figures, medical professionals said that as of August 6, a total of 13.6 million vaccines had been administered, with the fully vaccinated (with both doses) being 2.7 million people.

“Therefore, the fully vaccinated population is 12.4% of the population, which means that 87.6% of the population is still at risk, but there is no lockdown to protect them,” a doctor said.

The authorities on Friday only “completely” banned travel between provinces from midnight, excluding essential services from this ban. Inter-provincial public transport services were suspended.

The Government also brought in conditions with regard to people who could enter ‘public places’ after September 15, limiting it to 30 plus age group people who have taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association’s Intercollegiate Committee, meanwhile, sought an urgent meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to explain the full implications of the current scenario of COVID-19.

It also “earnestly” requested the President to urgently declare a very severe mobility restriction amounting to a lockdown for a minimum of two weeks, while maintaining essential services and the vaccination programme.

Allocate vaccines that provide some immunity even with a single dose to all elders and people with comorbidities, it added.

The covid death toll reported last night was 160 with 3,245 cases.

(Source: Sunday Times – By Kumudini Hettiarachchi and Ruqqyaha Deane)