Experts predict 30,000 deaths by January 2022

COVID-19 dead bodies in Colombo Sri Lanka

At current levels of mobility restrictions, the number of cases would increase up to 6,000 cases per day by mid-September and deaths up to early October coming to a peak around 220 deaths per day.

ICU admission will peak around 275 by early October with cumulative deaths around 30,000 by January 2022, an Independent Expert Group stressed. However, at increased levels of stringency (similar to May, June 2021) for four weeks, the country will have less numbers of cases of around 1,000 per day, with deaths less than 25 per day and avert 18,000 deaths by January 2022, they predicted.

The group, while issuing recommendations on Friday (13), emphasised the need to “strictly enforce movement restrictions, including interdistrict travel except for essential services,” to be in place. “The effective implementation of these measures may require the enforcement of a curfew for a short period, in large geographic areas or nationally,” they said.

They recommended the provision of care and protection of the health workers and the expansion of staff in hospitals to minimise disruption of essential health services. The Group urged the Government to develop and implement an effective communication plan to engage the public and to update them on the control measures.

The fifth Independent Expert Group Meeting on the ‘current COVID-19 situation and way forward,’ was convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Sri Lanka on 10 August 2021.

The projections and recommendations were presented during the 5th Independent Expert Group Meeting on the current COVID-19 situation and way forward. Accurate reporting of both cases and deaths to get a better picture of the ground situation was essential. It may also require the use of proxy indicators such as observed Test Positivity Rate (TPR), trends measured using weekly moving averages and time series analysis and mobility data.

The group also recommended the prioritising of vaccination of all those over 60 years and those with comorbidities, “preferably with Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca as even a single dose of those vaccines provided some degree of protection until the second dose was given.” The group called for the restriction or cancellation of all public events for three weeks.

The concerned experts noted that the current viral surge was overwhelming the capacity of the health systems to provide the required adequate care for people. “Sri Lanka is showing a rapid increase in the number of cases and deaths being reported daily and the recent trends indicate the country could soon face a health crisis of unprecedented proportions,” they warned.

The Monash University, Australia in collaboration with WHO South East Asian Region (SEAR) and Sri Lanka Country Office, giving out projections on notified cases and deaths using the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit data, noted that the projections have assumed that 50% will be fully vaccinated by end of August 2021.

“Since we have not yet achieved the vaccine coverage targeted, the projections are an under-estimate,” the group said. The experts stressed the need for urgency of action. “It takes a few weeks before measures show a positive impact on the number of infections and hospital admissions. “Any delay in implementation will lead to an increase in deaths and will require even more stringent measures with longer duration to regain control,” they warned.

(Source: Ceylon Today – By Dilanthi Jayamanne)