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SL plans lockdown extension, vaccine rollout to curb Covid spike

According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, Sri Lanka is in the 11th position when it comes to countries with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 population. With nearly 200 deaths daily, as of Thursday, Sri Lanka’s Covid death toll passed 9600.

IANS | Colombo |

Sri Lanka has decided to extend the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown for another week with plans to continue vaccine rollout to check the current spike in daily Covid cases.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who met the Covid-19 Task Force on Friday, extended the lockdown which was to end on September 6 till September 13 morning.

Rajapaksa, who also holds the health portfolio, said, “Progress will be made via the ongoing vaccination drive in the interim to curb the current spike.”

While the country remained closed, the health and military establishments are carrying out the drive to vaccinate everyone over 30 years around the country. The island nation was forced to lock down on August 20 amid a sudden surge in new infections and deaths mainly due to the spread of the Delta variant.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, Sri Lanka is in the 11th position when it comes to countries with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 population. With nearly 200 deaths daily, as of Thursday, Sri Lanka’s Covid death toll passed 9600.

While medical experts, rights groups and political leaders including those in the government urged the extension of the lockdown, the government was stressing the need to open the country mainly due to dire economic conditions.

Last week, urging the government to continue the lock, the United Nations told Sri Lanka ‘count the human cost of the pandemic, over the short-term economic concerns’.

“The economy can recover but those we lose will never return. A short-term lockdown now will save lives, offer respite to our tireless health workers, and limit the long-term social and economic dislocation of a wider Covid-19 outbreak,” UN’s Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, said in a statement.

Quoting a report by an Independent Technical Expert Group convened by the WHPO, UN’s Resident Coordinator stated that if lockdowns are extended to September 18 and October 2, respectively, 7,500 and 10,000 deaths can be prevented.

The WHO report also had projected that an extension of the lockdown to 18 September would result in an economic loss of $1.67 billion, while an extension of the lockdown to 2 October would result in an economic loss of $2.22 billion.