Sri Lanka Refuses to Go Into Lockdown Despite Surge in Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

Sri Lankans wait to give swab samples to test for COVID-19 outside a hospital as a health official walks past in Minuwangoda, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Sri Lanka’s government rejected on Tuesday mounting calls for an immediate lockdown to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths that is severely stretching hospitals and crematoriums.

Government spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the country had not reached a critical stage even as the island nation suffers more than 100 deaths per day on average.

“Curfews or a lockdown is the last resort, but we are not there yet,” Rambukwella told reporters. “Our target is to get everyone over the age of 18 vaccinated by September and thereafter it is in the hands of the gods.”

His comments came despite the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) issuing what it called a “final warning” to the government to restrict the movement of people immediately or risk a bigger catastrophe.

“We have given the final warning to the government to take urgent steps to lock down at least for two weeks,” said a spokesman for the SLMA, a professional body of medical experts.

A junior minister for health, Channa Jayasumana, called the Delta variant of the virus “a powerful bomb which has exploded in Colombo and is spreading elsewhere”.

On Friday the government tightened some restrictions, banning state ceremonies and public gatherings until September 1.

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