Friday March 13, 2020 17:04:28
CONFLICTED -Director-General of Health Services D. Anil Jasinghe is concerned private sector testing for COVID19 will become a business
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is contemplating a move to allow private hospitals to carry out COVID-19 tests amid fears that it could “become a business,” Director General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe said.
With the government confirming its second COVID-19 patient last evening, efforts are underway to contain the spread of the disease in the country, with 64 suspected cases currently under observation.
The private sector is not permitted to carry out tests for the novel coronavirus as it is “not geared” to handle a public health exercise of this nature, Dr Jasinghe told a press conference this afternoon.
Rumours have been rife that private hospitals are charging exorbitant prices for the test.
“If we allow the private sector to carry out this test, it will have to be on very stringent criteria. We will have to ask them to report the details of patients, which will prove useful for us in following up these cases. The price will also have to be reasonable,” said Jasinghe.
The health ministry is following up with 4,794 people who landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) over the past few days. According to Jasinghe, 3,305 of these arrivals are Sri Lankan and 1,153 are Chinese nationals, while the remainder are from South Korea and Italy.
As of this morning, 1,448 people are quarantined in Batticaloa and Kandakudi. Of the 64 people who were identified as being in close contact with the two confirmed patients, about 13 who meet what is known as a ‘case definition’ have been hospitalised for observation. The remaining 51, according to Jasinghe, are all under home-quarantine. At least one of these contacts is a US citizen.
The two patients, both of whom are tour guides who had worked together with a group of Italian tourists, are currently undergoing treatment at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, commonly referred to as IDH (Infectious Diseases Hospital).
Asked why Chinese arrivals are not being quarantined, Jasinghe reiterated the official government position that China is completing its “epidemic curve”, with only 27 new cases reported yesterday and areas with high concentrations of COVID-19 cases are still in lockdown.
“In China, lockdown is lockdown. In Italy, that’s not quite the same. In China, they block the roads. That doesn’t happen in Italy,” he said. At the time of writing, the Hubei province has been in lockdown for over 50 days.