Current strain of COVID very contagious, warns Health Dept.

Urges public to take precautions and 90 new cases confirmed


COLOMBO – The Department of Health Services on Monday (12) warned the strain of the novel coronavirus that is spreading in the country right now is highly virulent and urged the general public to take extra care to safeguard themselves.

The Department’s spokesman and former head of the Medical Research Institute (MRI), Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, told reporters on Monday medical researchers have concluded that the strain is easily spread and urged the public to strictly adhere to the health guidelines.

“It is a strain that produces a high number of viruses very quickly inside the body and they can escape and infect someone else easily,” he said at a media briefing held at the Health Promotion Bureau in Colombo.

Bandara said PCR testing is being strengthened and that two more machines have been added to the MRI and several automated machines would also be installed shortly.

Since the recent outbreak, the Department has carried out 6,482 PCR tests.

The Minuwangoda cluster, as the current outbreak is referred to, has yielded 1436 cases, with 90 new cases reported on Monday.  The cluster has so far recorded the highest number of infections with the widest spread.  Patients connected to the cluster have been detected in Jaffna, Ratnapura, Moneragala and Mannar districts. Most are in the Gampaha district.

Meanwhile, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra , who also heads the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC), said groceries, supermarkets and pharmacies which remained open in the areas under quarantine curfew, will be closed for three days from Tuesday (13) morning.

Parts of the Gampaha district are under police or quarantine curfew until further notice. However, two villages in the Mannar district, Pattithottam and Periyakadei, which were named as isolated villages on Sunday (11), were reopened after 6:00 p.m. on Monday.

Meanwhile, Silva said  of the 90 new cases reported Monday, 40 were workers of the Minuwangod Brandix plant,  which is at the epicentre of the outbreak. The rest are close contacts of the staff.

Silva said that all family members of the workers at the Brandix plant are being quarantined.

Positive cases were reported from the NDB Bank branch in Colombo as well as the SriLankan Airport Cargo handling area. NOCPOC said staff in the facility are being tested.

Bandara, meanwhile added that 17 hospitals have been set aside for Covid patients and “if necessary we can obtain facilities from other hospitals as well.”

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