The unexpected and unanticipated outbreak of a cluster of COVID-19 patients has stoked fears the country may move once more into lockdown. 

At present, 492 people have been identified as directly or indirectly connected to the cluster that has emerged from the Kandakadu Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre. 

According to both Director-General of Health Service Dr Anil Jasinghe and head of the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19, Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva, the possibility of more cases being reported is very real—however, both parties agree that the disease is under control.  

After the first counsellor tested positive—on Thursday (09)—42 people from 10 houses in Chilaw were asked to self-quarantine. 

The second counsellor was identified on Saturday (11), and over 300 of her contacts living in Rajanganaya, Anuradhapura, including 70 children, were asked to self-quarantine. 

With this discovery, however, a spike in cases was identified in the Rajanaganaya area. Accordingly, the National Election Commission (NEC) temporarily suspended the postal voting for the Rajanganaya Divisional Secretariat division that was scheduled to take place today while authorities imposed travel restrictions on several areas in Rajanganaya. 

These developments have resulted in a renewed debate about the possibility of a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 that was feared would take place after the lockdown that was imposed between March-May was gradually lifted. 

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) on Friday (10) warned that failure to adhere to the strict health guidelines issued by the authorities could result in the second wave with significant risks to several risk groups such as the schoolchildren and those involved in election work.

Fearing possible community transmission, the Ministry of Education on the weekend declared a week-long holiday (July 13-17)  to all government schools and pirivena institutions, beginning today. 

Private schools, international schools and tuition classes were also encouraged to give their students a week-long holiday, and the reopening of international airports was delayed. 

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga said a decision was made to temporarily suspend repatriation flights from tomorrow (14). According to Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Secretary to the President, the government arrived at this decision considering the increasing number of cases from among those repatriated alongside the limited number of quarantine centres available in the country. 

Despite the rationality of the request, this has not been received very well by many of those stranded in other countries, who continue to plead with the government to quicken the repatriation processes. 

However, there are no clear indications that the government will be forced to send the country back into lockdown just yet. 

Nalaka Kaluwewa, Director-General of the Department of Government Information clarifying further yesterday, that even rumours of the government declaring holidays in coming days were ‘totally FALSE’. 

For an article related to this latest outbreak, click here. Click on this to learn more about how Sri Lanka fared during the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic and for Roar’s overall coverage of the pandemic, click here.