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A man reacts as a health official uses a swab to collect a sample at a fish market during the curfew amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Colombo April 22, 2020. — Reuters pic
A man reacts as a health official uses a swab to collect a sample at a fish market during the curfew amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Colombo April 22, 2020. — Reuters pic

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COLOMBO, Aug 20 — Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will meet his Covid-19 advisers today and is expected later to address the nation as infections and deaths overwhelm the island’s health system, leading to calls for a complete lockdown.

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

Rajapaksa is scheduled to chair a meeting with members of the presidential task force on coronavirus before his address to the nation on Friday evening.

Many restrictions are already in place, with schools, gyms, and swimming pools closed and weddings and musical shows banned. 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 Russia’s Sputnik V shots.

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

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