Sri Lanka closes key state offices as virus outbreak surges

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Employees of Colombo municipal council crowd around a table to give their swab samples to test for COVID-19 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Authorities in Sri Lanka on Wednesday widened a curfew and warned of legal action against those evading treatment for COVID-19 after reporting an escalating cluster centered around a garment factory in the capital’s suburbs. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Authorities in Sri Lanka closed key government offices and further expanded a curfew Thursday to contain a surging coronavirus outbreak.

The foreign ministry closed the consular affairs office for the week and suspended all services to prevent the public from congregating. The ministry said it would only accept queries and documentation assistance related to deaths of Sri Lankans overseas, strictly by appointment.

Other departments providing services related to revenue, immigration, pensions, vehicle license and registrations also closed for the week, and a state-sponsored exhibition was canceled.

The outbreak that surfaced this week has grown to 1,034 cases with more than 2,000 others asked to quarantine at home.

It is centered around a garment factory in the Colombo suburbs where the first patient and many others worked. Police have widened the curfew in the suburbs where many of the patients live. Schools have closed, public gatherings were ordered halted and restrictions were imposed on public transport.

The cluster comes after the Indian Ocean island nation reported going two months without any community infections, and health officials say it poses a high risk of spreading the virus because employees at the factory worked close together and also went home every day and mingled with others in society.

The country has reported 4,252 cases, including 13 deaths. Of the total patients, 3,274 have recovered.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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