Sri Lanka government has decided to temporarily halt the repatriation of Sri Lankans from overseas from 14 July. This follows a decision to turn a quarantine centre into a 500-bed field hospital for coronavirus patients after a sharp increase in the number of new infections, the military said Friday.
Additional Secretary to the President Admiral Jayantha Colambage said the process will be temporarily halted due to the coronavirus outbreak reported at the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre- East Kandakadu.
As the number of patients increases the Government will require more quarantine centres to place people in quarantine.
Likewise, Sri Lankans being repatriated from overseas will also be required to be placed in quarantine centres, and this is causing an issue, he said.
Admiral Colambage further said that thereby it was decided to temporarily halt the repatriation process from 14 July.
He said taking into account those who have and are to be repatriated till 14 July, close to 16, 000 persons from 65 countries will have returned.
“The last two flights have been scheduled from the Maldives and Jordan in which close to 500 Sri Lankans are set to return”, he added.
Admiral Colombage said the Health officials and the Army will be given 3 to 4 days from 14 July to organize the quarantine centres and address issues surrounding it, following which the Government will recommence the repatriation process.
Quarantine centre into a 500-bed field hospital
Army chief Shavendra Silva said the military-run Kandakadu facility in the east of the island was made a hospital after a record number of people there tested positive for the virus since Thursday.
“The quarantine centre was made a field hospital that can treat up to 500 patients,” Silva said in a statement.
He said a record 253 inmates at a drug rehabilitation centre in the Kandakadu neighbourhood were moved to the field hospital on Thursday.
Another 97 people tested positive for the virus on Friday raising fears of a second wave of infections, health officials said, adding that 87 of them were also from the rehab centre.
The spike in cases came even as the authorities had eased lockdown measures as the number of new infections showed a decline in recent weeks.
Mass testing was carried out at the drug rehabilitation centre after an inmate transferred to the main prison in the capital was found to be infected with COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The information department said the authorities have begun tracing inmates released from the rehabilitation centre at Kandakadu, 252 kilometres (157 miles) north-east of the capital, after the latest outbreak.
The government earlier last month began easing a 24-hour nation-wide curfew and started reopening schools after health authorities said there had been no community spread of the virus since the end of April.
The new cases reported in the country till Thursday had been among those returning from abroad and within a navy camp that is still under lockdown.
The country has reported 2,450 cases with 11 fatalities since the first patient, a Chinese woman tourist, was found on January 27