One Man Blamed for Half of His Nation's Cases

Sri Lankan man says he is being scapegoated
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2020 12:40 PM CDT
One Man Blamed for Half of His Nation's Cases
Sri Lankan auto rickshaw driver Prasad Dinesh, linked by Sri Lankan officials to nearly half the country's more than 2,600 coronavirus cases, at his house in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka.   (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Sri Lankan auto rickshaw driver Prasad Dinesh admits breaking into a house to steal coconuts to sell to buy heroin—but he says it's harsh to blame him for almost half of the country's coronavirus cases. The 33-year-old sustained a leg injury during the April 5 theft and tested positive for the virus after his arrest. Around 100 people in his neighborhood were then ordered to self-quarantine, but chaos ensured after a team of sailors was sent to assist health workers, the AP reports. Dinesh's associates "were climbing trees, they were trying to jump over a fence, trying to have a bath, trying to jump into a canal," says Adm. Javanath Colombage, a member of Sri Lanka's national coronavirus task force. Dozens of sailors involved in the operation later tested positive, leading to around 900 infections after thousands of sailors were quarantined in a single camp.

Authorities, who referred to Dinesh as "Patient 206," accused him of doing "huge damage" to the country. They said that in total, he was responsible for more than 1,100 of the country's 2,600 coronavirus cases. "I can’t accept that I am responsible for infecting so many, including the navy sailors," Dinesh tells the AP. He says he is being stigmatized because he is a heroin user, though he managed to kick the habit while hospitalized. "I have now completely given up," he says. "I don’t even smoke a cigarette. I am always with my two kids now and play with them. I feel good." The South Asian country has reported only 11 coronavirus deaths, but after a recent rise in cases, doctors are urging the government to reintroduce restrictions including a ban on public gatherings, the Daily Mirror reports. (More coronavirus stories.)

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