By Shamindra Ferdinando
Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Asela Gunawardena, who is the state authority for the national campaign against the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, has acknowledged that his directive that Piliyandala police area be isolated on May Day was overridden.
Appearing on Hiru TV ‘Salakuna’ programme on Monday (3) night, Dr. Gunawardena admitted that the very basis of the mechanism in place to isolate areas threatened by the Covid-19 epidemic had been violated.
Dr. Gunawardena said so in response to ‘Salakuna’ anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema repeatedly pressing the DGHS over the removal of the isolation directive issued effective at 6 am on May Day following Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge’s intervention. Samarawickrema sought an explanation as regards the removal of the directive at 5 pm and the subsequent isolation of five Grama Niladhari areas in the Piliyandala police area.
Samarawickrema pointed out to DGHS that politicians had been allowed to behave in a manner inimical to the entire national effort to counter the pandemic whereas the public and in some instances even the media were repeatedly criticized for not cooperating with government efforts.
Dr. Gunawardena recently issued a dire warning over the absence of sufficient hospital facilities in case the situation further deteriorated rapidly. The number of deaths reported till Monday stood at 709 with the country recording well over 1,000 new cases every day for about a week.
Responding to Samarawickrema, Dr. Gunawardena explained the mechanism in place to control the pandemic. According to the DGHS, the Medical Officer Health (MoH) responsible for a particular area brought the situation to the notice of the Provincial Authority who in turn alerted him. Once the DGHS decided to act on recommendation made by MoH and Provincial Authority, the Commander of the Army who is also the head of the Covid-19 Task Force General Shavendra Silva was informed, the DGHS explained.
Samarawickrema asked the DGHS how isolation of Piliyandala had been removed if such measures were taken in terms of scientific foundation as he mentioned.
In the wake of Samarawickrema challenging the DGHS to act on Minister Lokuge’s intervention, the latter promised to look into the matter.
Samarawickrema told The Island that he raised the issue at hand particularly against the backdrop of the government banning May Day rallies as part of the overall measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Samarawickrema said that Minister Lokuge had told the media, including Hiru that some persons on his staff, too, were tested positive. In spite of that the Minister accompanied by a group of people were on the move in the Piliyandala area, Samarawickrema said.
Responding to another query, Dr Gunawardena said that he announced the isolation of Piliyandala on Hiru at 6.25 am on May Day. Then several hours later, another statement was received regarding the removal of the isolation directive, Samarawickrema said.
The Island didn’t receive a response to sms sent to Minister Lokuge and Dr. Gunawardena seeking clarification regarding the issue at hand.
Minister Lokuge was shown on Hiru main news bulletin Monday night assuring the Piliyandala electorate as the people’s representative he had a right to look into their grievances.