Sri Lanka to reimpose selective lockdown after virus cases spike
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Sri Lanka will reimpose selective lockdown restrictions from Sunday to restrict large gatherings after recording its biggest daily surge in coronavirus infections -- most found in citizens repatriated last week from Kuwait.
The island nation on Tuesday lifted a shutdown on the capital and a neighbouring district, two weeks after easing it in other parts of the nation. But after more than 250 returnees from Kuwait were found to be infected with coronavirus, authorities decided to impose lockdowns on days when crowds were likely to form -- including the planned funeral of a popular minister.
The health ministry said that out of 460 Sri Lankans who returned from Kuwait this week, some 252 had tested positive for coronavirus. All the returnees were being held in quarantine. Officials said the lockdown will apply on Sunday, the day of the funeral of tea plantation trade union leader and government minister Arumugam Thondaman, who died Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of mourners from his Ceylon Workers Congress party had been expected to attend. It will then be lifted until Thursday, when it will be imposed again for two days to coincide with a Buddhist holiday. Under lockdown restrictions, no-one is allowed to leave home unless they are involved in essential services.
Officials said new cases of coronavirus were also found at a navy camp outside Colombo. Some 771 sailors and their immediate family members have so far tested positive from the facility, out of a nationwide total of 1,469 cases. Ten people have died from the virus, including a woman who returned from Kuwait last week.
Officials said they were scaling back repatriations in order not to overwhelm facilities. "It is not easy to increase quarantine capacity overnight," government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana told reporters. "We are also building hospital capacity to bring back more Sri Lankans who are stranded abroad."
Some 41,000 of around 1.5 million Sri Lankans employed abroad have registered with authorities asking to return home.