Fearing a third COVID-19 wave and the rapid spread of the Delta variant, authorities in Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide night curfew set to begin on Monday, August 16. The government led by prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also banned public gatherings and wedding receptions.
The health ministry noted that 161 deaths and at least 3,435 new cases were reported in the country on Saturday, August 14, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases to 355,000. Over 6,000 deaths have been reported. 39,300 patients were being treated while 309,732 had been discharged from hospitals.
As the daily number of infections rises, health experts have suggested imposing a four-week lockdown if the rapid surge continues. Sri Lanka’s Epidemiology Unit recently confirmed that out of a total population of 21 million, over 10 million have been given the first dose of vaccine and 4.5 million have received both doses.
As per health experts, there is shortage of oxygen supply and intensive care units in hospitals. If the present trend continues, they warn that the number of cases could increase to around 6,000 per day till mid-September and the total number of deaths would peak at 220 per day by mid-October.
The crisis has also led to the demotion of health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi after she publicly endorsed sorcery and magic to battle the virus. The rising surge in daily infections has led to intense criticism of the government. Many fear that the actual number of infections could be three times more than what is being officially reported by the authorities.
The country is likely to import 100 metric tonnes of oxygen from neighboring India in the coming days to meet the shortage of oxygen in hospitals.