Sailors become biggest cluster of infections in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) – Sailors at a Sri Lankan naval base have become the biggest cluster of coronavirus infections in the Indian Ocean island nation with 248 testing positive for the disease, authorities said yesterday.

Sri Lanka’s Army Chief Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva said that out of 30 cases discovered in the last 24 hours, 22 are navy sailors and another seven had close contact with them.

The virus is believed to have entered the camp on the outskirts of the capital, Colombo, last week when sailors were deployed to hunt down a group of drug addicts who had contact with a COVID-19 patient and were evading quarantine. The virus then spread to different parts of the country when sailors went on home leave.

About 4,000 navy troops are being quarantined inside the camp while 242 relatives have been taken to four quarantine centres run by the navy.

Sri Lanka has had 649 COVID-19 patients and seven deaths. About half of the sick were diagnosed after April 22 and include 257 sailors or close contacts.

According to the newspaper Lankadeepa, at least six villages have been sealed off this week in different parts of Sri Lanka because of exposure to the sailors who returned home. Several hundred other people have been asked to self-quarantine, the paper reported.

In a bid to control the spread of the virus, the government has cancelled home leaves for troops and ordered them to return to camps.

Sri Lankan health officials take a swab test as they conduct a random screening for COVID-19 at a locked down area in Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AP