Sri Lanka announces lockdown as coronavirus cases surge; president to address nation

Sri Lanka recorded its highest single-day death toll of 187 and 3,793 cases on Aug 18, 2021.
Sri Lanka recorded its highest single-day death toll of 187 and 3,793 cases on Aug 18, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (REUTERS) - Sri Lanka announced a 10-day lockdown starting on Friday (Aug 20) night in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as surging infections and deaths overwhelm the island's health system.

The Indian Ocean nation recorded its highest single-day death toll of 187 and 3,793 cases on Wednesday.

"Nationwide Lockdown in effect from 10pm today (20/08) to Monday (30/08). All essential services will function as normal," Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said on Twitter. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met with members of the presidential task force on coronavirus and was expected to address the nation on Friday evening. 

Medical professionals, religious leaders, politicians and businessmen have called for an immediate nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of infections.

Daily infections have more than doubled in a month to an average of 3,897, according to the Reuters Global Covid tracker.

Hospitals in the country of 32 million people are overflowing with Covid-19 patients as the highly transmissible Delta variant surges through the population.

"If they listen to us, it will be good for our leaders and for the country," said lawmaker Tissa Witarana after calling for a strict lockdown.

Many restrictions are already in place, with schools, gyms and swimming pools closed and weddings and musical shows banned.

The authorities also imposed a night curfew from Monday, restricting movement from 10pm until 4am every day.

Around a quarter of Sri Lanka's population has been fully vaccinated, a majority of them with China's Sinopharm vaccine.

Sri Lanka has also approved the Pfizer, Moderna , AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V shots.

It has reported a total of 372,079 infections since the start of the outbreak last year, with 6,604 deaths.