The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday rejected growing calls for an immediate lockdown to contain an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths that is straining hospitals and crematoriums.
Government spokesman and media minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the country has not reached a critical stage even as the island nation suffers an average of more than 100 deaths a day.
“Curfews or lockdown are the last resort, but we’re not there yet,” Rambukwella told reporters. “Our goal is to have everyone over 18 vaccinated by September and then it will be in the hands of the gods. “
Her comments came despite the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) issuing what it called a “final warning” to the government to immediately restrict the movement of people or risk a more serious disaster.
“We have given the final warning to the government to take urgent action to lock down for at least two weeks,” said a spokesperson for SLMA, a professional body of medical experts.
Deputy Minister of Health Channa Jayasumana called the Delta variant of the virus “a powerful bomb that exploded in Colombo and is spreading elsewhere”.
The government tightened some restrictions on Friday, banning state ceremonies and public gatherings until September 1.
But most activities are allowed, with shops, restaurants and offices open and public transport still operational.
The death toll hit a record 111 on Monday, with last week’s daily average surpassing 100, more than double the previous week’s average of 40.
The number of infections has also more than doubled to nearly 3,000 this week.
In a Colombo morgue on Tuesday morning, workers tested 15 corpses for Covid-19, then cremated them to clear the way for more bodies.
A Colombo magistrate ordered the immediate disposal of 40 bodies not claimed by next of kin.
Colombo city council began mass cremations on Sunday to clear a backlog after hospital mortuaries ran out of refrigeration space for bodies.
Just over 11.2 million people out of a population of 21 million received at least one vaccine, while 3.2 million had received both on Monday.
Sri Lanka has so far recorded 5,222 deaths and nearly 333,000 infections, according to official data.
© 2021 AFP