(Corrects Sri Lanka population to 22 million in seventh paragraph of Friday story)
COLOMBO (Reuters) -Sri Lanka announced a 10-day lockdown starting on Friday 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 22 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, a supporter of a strict national lockdown, before the health minister’s announcement.
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 10 pm until 4 am 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.
(Reporting by Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in MumbaiEditing by Gareth Jones)