Sri Lanka on Tuesday deployed a naval ship to India to avoid delay in fetching oxygen, urgently needed to meet the shortage of supply in hospitals, following the rapid surge of COVID-19 cases in the country. Sri Lanka has recorded over 3.58 lakh coronavirus cases, while the death toll has touched 6,263.
Sri Lanka Naval Ship (SLNS) Shakthi left the eastern port of Trincomalee in the morning and is heading for the Port of Chennai, India, the Lankan Navy said. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered the Navy to bring the oxygen supplies from India in order to minimise the delays, it said.
Last week, the then Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told reporters that the government will order medical grade oxygen from India to meet the current needs with the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases. She said 100 metric tonnes of oxygen would be imported from India initially and more orders would be placed depending on the need.
Meanwhile, state minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Channa Jayasumana told Parliament on Tuesday that three mutations of the fast-spreading Delta variant of COVID-19 have been detected in Lanka. The three mutations — SA222V, SA701S and SA1078S — show changes to their spike protein.This may be a reason for the current surge in the cases, Jayasumana said.
He said that researchers have confirmed that the Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the dominant variant in Sri Lanka. It is spreading 60-70 per cent faster than the previous strains, he said.It gives rise to more symptoms and an increase in oxygen-dependent patients, Jayasumana said.
Health experts have called for a total lockdown to combat the situation as hospitals were fast exceeding their capacities. The government, however, has rejected the call because of an ailing economy. The new health minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, said the night curfew from 12 am to 4 am would be sufficient to curb the current surge in Covid cases. The curfew comes into force from Tuesday midnight.
A group of Lankan health experts, who make the WHO independent expert group, had earlier said that patients dependent on oxygen significantly increased from 528 last week to 646 by August 12. The health experts have warned that the number of COVID-19 cases would increase up to 6,000 per day up to mid September and deaths would peak to 220 per day by mid October.
According to the current figures of the Health Ministry, the average figures are half of the anticipated rise.