China techies in Sri Lanka to fix Coronavirus PCR machines as Covid-19 spreads

ECONOMYNEXT – Technicians from a company in China that has manufactured a high capacity Coronavirus PCR machine that is currently out of order has arrived in the country, the Chinese embassy in Colombo said.

“We learn that technicians from the #PCRtest manu company have landed tonight at #Colombo via the nearest flight, upon the emergent request from #SriLankan (sic),” the Chinese embassy in Colombo said in a

“So far the malfunction reason not clear. Other machines will also be checked & maintained, after 24/7 running for months.”

Sri Lanka has conducted over 11,000 tests over the past two days despite the broken machines.


Sri Lanka confirms 633 Coronavirus patients, Covid-19 total tops 10,000 amid rising concerns

PCR machines have been running flat out since the beginning of October when the first contact was found.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 633 Coronavirus patients on October 30, taking the total over 10,424 official data showed, amid delays in giving test results, as authorities gave up institutionalized quarantine.

“There are several hundred patients being reported each day,” Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera told reporters.

“It is also spreading fast. It is now in practically all districts.”

He urged people to limit movements.

Sri Lanka has avoided a nation-wide curfew.

With resources being increasingly strained local television is carrying reports of persons on whom PCR tests being done being sent home and confirmed patients waiting for admission.

Sri Lanka has 43 hospitals and second tier treatment facilities and another one will come on stream on October 30, Deputy Director of Health Hemanthe Herath told reporters.

Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau said 11,560 tests were carried out on October 30, the highest daily total so far, up from 11,080 a day earlier and 8,680 a week earlier.

“We are conducting more tests daily despite one of the PCR machines at the IDH being out of order,” Deputy Director of Health Hemanthe Herath told reporters.

“We expect to repair it over the weekend.”

The Colombo Municipality is carrying out large numbers of tests, and is finding more patients. On October 29, 37 patients were confirmed in Kotahena, 32 in Mattakkuliya and 20 in Dematagoda.

But there are warnings that testing is limited in other areas.

“In Kurunegala in Wayamba there were only 50 swabs given to carry out PCR tests in the community,” Haritha Aluthge from the Government Medical Officer’s Association told reporters.

The GMOA says there is a backlog of 20,000 swabs to be tested and generally there is a 2.5 percent rate of confirmation.

“In some cases results have been delayed by a week,” Aluthge said. “This is an unfortunate situation. In some area no swabs have been given for community testing.”

Researchers in Vietnam, one of the most successful countries in controlling Covid says there is 6-day window for tracers to isolate contacts before it spreads to the next level. Coronavirus has an incubation period of between 2 to 14 days.

From level to level the spread is exponential. A lockdown and home quarantine, slows the spread and institutionalized quarantine with fast testing can completely kill an outbreak.

Over the week Sri Lanka also dropped institutionalized quarantine and resorted to home quarantine as numbers grew.

Under home quarantine, contacts who are going through the incubation period tends to infects other family members, parents and grandparents as they develop the disease at home, increasing the number of positive cases, not counting leaks, observers familiar with East Asia say.

Korea which uses home quarantine has a steady trickle of deaths (461 up to October 30) compared to 35 for Vietnam which uses institutional quarantine all of which came from a July-August outbreak.

Sri Lanka is converting former quarantine facilities to treatment centres as numbers rise.

Aluthge said based on information reaching the GMOA, results of about 3,000 tests are awaited in Matara and in some areas 5 to 6 days delays are being seen.

Sri Lanka has now locked down the entire Gampaha district, after initially putting curfews in areas close to Minuwangoda.

At the time authorities insisted that all contacts including those who were turning up in hospital independently without being traced had some link to the Minuwangoda cluster.

The fish market cluster was then discovered around October 20, and large numbers of persons were found in North Colombo. Officials then said cross infections may have taken place.

Sri Lanka has now also locked down parts of the capital Colombo which are densely populated.

So far only the Killinochchi district has had no infections.

However Aluthge said with weak testing of the community, there could be more infections in the country than is seen.

On Saturday reports said a woman patient had turned up positive in a hospital in the South from Galle.

Since symptomatic patients are only a small proportion of the total, such patients points to the existence of another sub-cluster.

But in many districts the disease is spreading though public health officials are actively chasing contacts.

In Karandeniya area more patients linked to a fish vendor were found.

Public Health Inspector Rohana Thennakoon asked anyone who had bought fish from the vendors in the past few days to report to them.

“There is a high risk of anyone who had bought fish from catching the disease,” he said.

On October 30, reports said 08 patients were found in Eheliyagoda linked to the fish market and Colombo Dockyard clusters.

Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana said so far about 60 police officers had got infected and 300 are under quarantine.

The first infected persons had first got the disease from purchasing fish for police canteens, he said.

Meanwhile officials said in Colombo’s lower income flats, the disease was spreading despite the curfews. (Colombo/Oct30/2020)


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