Epidemiologist Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe warns that about 30,000 people could die from the corona epidemic by the end of this year if essential health recommendations, including travel restrictions, are not implemented to curb the fast-growing Delta variety.
The specialist doctor made this warning at a media briefing of the National People’s Power (NPP) held today (13th). Following is the full text of his views:
“We are holding this press conference at a crucial time for the country. At present, 345,000 corona infections and 5,620 deaths have been reported. 37,199 are being treated in hospitals. People with minimal symptoms are being treated at home. Deaths averaged 115 last week. 1156 people died in a week. Over the past month, various medical associations, specialist doctors, and the World Health Organization warned the government regarding the emergence of this dangerous situation. The government was therefore advised to take necessary action. But our country too has developed into a serious epidemic situation like in Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India since April. Serious attention should be paid to the number of deaths reported so far. Even with a minimum of 100 deaths per day, 3,000 die each month. But this could increase to 4,500. About 75% of the elderly can die. This situation is not a trivial matter. Only 13% of the population is over 60 years of age. We had a special discussion at the World Health Organization’s Lanka office. All the experts who have worked for many years in the World Health Organization participated. We submitted a report to the Minister of Health and the Government. The report has been released to the media stating the serious situation that may arise in the future. According to the report, there could be 30,000 deaths by the end of this year. The current 3,000 deaths a month could be as high as 6,000 by October. Serious tragedies like this can happen if specific decisions are not implemented.
It seems that the government is acting very weakly, very slowly, without using scientific information. The government has stated that it will not impose a curfew in the country. The existing task force does not have the understanding to make decisions regarding a virus. We emphasize that no one knows everything. So we invited all the experts and prepared the report using their knowledge and experience. We met at the WHO office and submitted our report.
World-renowned virologist Professor Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong is among them. He was a leading professor of the SARS virus. Dr. Kamini Mendis is a specialist in the field of malaria control who has played a leading role in our country and the world. The best team that can be collected like this has come together and given a compiled report. The government takes decisions on behalf of the 21 million people in this country. Therefore, the government has a responsibility to call relevant experts and obtain reports.
However, it is clear that the government is neglecting that responsibility. Distortion of statistics is becoming a serious situation. 4171 people have tested positive from PCR, and 1239 have tested positive from the antigen. It is estimated that about 5500 infected people were identified in a single day. This was reported by the Operations Room of the Ministry of Health. We continuously questioned the statistics that have been reported.
The discrepancies between the data released by the Epidemiology Unit and the data officially provided were inquired. Initially, the answer was that the same person could perform both the PCR and antigen tests and the infection could be recorded as two. On the other hand, we were told that the Epidemiology Unit released the data at 10.00 am but the other report was released at 10.00 pm the night before. Nevertheless, we do not believe these answers to the most serious problem about the difference of about 1500.
In an interview with a team at the University of Melbourne in Australia, we predicted that by the end of this year, there could be around 30,000 deaths. Accurate predictions cannot be made if we limit the amount of accurate data and information available to us. Predictions were made at a time when about 120 deaths were reported per day, but now with more than 150 deaths, the forecasts have to change. The main point to be raised is the reality of the government’s continued claims regarding vaccination. It is said that about 98% of the first vaccine is given. For whatever reason, it is clear that Sri Lanka is ahead in providing the first vaccine. However, only 28% were given the second vaccine. The Delta variety is spreading rapidly, especially in rich countries, and the situation has been exacerbated by identifying a new variety, the Lambda. This is why the WHO insists that both vaccines are needed.
This does not mean that we can avoid disease. It would minimize the risk of death and complications. The propaganda misleads 98% of people about vaccination. One vaccine is not enough. Of those who received the second vaccine, 58% of the population over 30 in Colombo, 48% in Gampaha, 44% in Kalutara and 34% in Matale have had both jabs. Only a very low percentage of all other districts have received the vaccine. Only 21% in Hambantota, 12% in Galle, 16% in Matara, 9% in Ratnapura, 15% in Kurunegala, 15% in Badulla and 2.5% in Kandy have been vaccinated. Therefore, we urge the public not to take a wrong view regarding vaccination. Getting vaccinated is not enough to get rid of the disease. Even if both vaccines are given, it is imperative to behave according to health guidelines. There is the danger of not being able to escape the virus from vaccination alone. New varieties are emerging. The distribution of government vaccines is a serious problem. These factors also need to be taken into consideration.
Taking care of patients at home as well as maintaining the hospital system is a big challenge. All the intermediate camps where patients are admitted first are full. Hospitals should also have separate facilities for other patients. People need to be careful because health workers are also getting sick. The health system will collapse if the travel restrictions are not implemented for at least two weeks in a situation where hospitals are deteriorating. The hospital system may become inactive to the point of people dying from other diseases. Our country is at a critical juncture. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to save ourselves and others. Meanwhile, the government has a special responsibility to save the people from death as it is elected by the people and holds power. We strongly urge the government to intervene immediately to save the people from death.”