Sri Lankan heroin addict blamed for half of country's infections

A Sri Lankan heroin addict accused of being a coronavirus superspreader solely responsible for half of his country's cases says he is being made an easy scapegoat because of his drug habit. Prasad Dinesh has recently been outed as the notorious “Patient 206” who health officials say is responsible for at least three clusters totalling nearly half the country's 2,600 cases. Authorities in the island nation have singled-out the 33-year-old and accused him of “huge damage” to the country, but he believes he is being unfairly maligned, he told Associated Press. The former rickshaw driver has taken the blame for such a huge number of cases after his infection led to a brawl with navy sailors trying to enforce quarantine. Some 900 sailors later tested positive themselves, in cases then pinned on Mr Dinesh. "I can't accept that I am responsible for infecting so many, including the navy sailors," Mr Dinesh said, after he had returned home following his release from a month-long stay at a hospital. "No one gives a job when they realize that I am Patient 206," he said. Officers say that Mr Dinesh was caught by village residents on April 5 for a robbery and handed over to police. Noticing he had a fever, as well as an injured leg from the robbery, he was sent to hospital and tested positive for Covid-19. He stayed there for 31 days. Mr Dinesh has not contested charges that he and others broke into a house in a nearby village to take coconuts they could sell in order to buy heroin. After he tested positive, the police who made the arrest, Mr Dinesh's friends and more than 100 people in his neighbourhood were ordered to quarantine at home. But not everyone complied and Sri Lanka's navy sent in a team of sailors to back-up health workers. As the sailors approached, some of Dinesh's associates panicked and tried to flee before they were caught after a melee. Of the 28 people seized from the community and quarantined, 16 tested positive. Yet as time passed soldiers in the operation also tested positive, then family members and their acquaintances. With the virus spreading to different parts of the country where sailors were on leave, authorities ordered troops from all arms of the military to report back to their camps. By the time the outbreak was under control, about 900 navy sailors tested positive, with around 50 other infected people also part of that cluster. Two other clusters also blamed on Mr Dinesh had at least 150 coronavirus cases, according to authorities. The quick spread meant that of Sri Lanka's 2,665 cases, nearly half have ultimately been blamed on one man – Mr Dinesh. "What to do? It is our fault for using drugs?" he told AP. Though using the drug since 2002, he said his habit had worsened during the coronavirus lockdown. His coronavirus infection had allowed him to finally kick the habit however. "I did not suffer severe withdrawals because I was not a severe addict," he said. "I have now completely given up (drugs)," he said. "I don't even smoke a cigarette.”

Sri Lankan heroin addict blamed for half of country's infections

A Sri Lankan heroin addict accused of being a coronavirus superspreader solely responsible for half of his country's cases says he is being made an easy scapegoat because of his drug habit.

Prasad Dinesh has recently been outed as the notorious “Patient 206” who health officials say is responsible for at least three clusters totalling nearly half the country's 2,600 cases.

Authorities in the island nation have singled-out the 33-year-old and accused him of “huge damage” to the country, but he believes he is being unfairly maligned, he told Associated Press.

The former rickshaw driver has taken the blame for such a huge number of cases after his infection led to a brawl with navy sailors trying to enforce quarantine. Some 900 sailors later tested positive themselves, in cases then pinned on Mr Dinesh.

"I can't accept that I am responsible for infecting so many, including the navy sailors," Mr Dinesh said, after he had returned home following his release from a month-long stay at a hospital.

"No one gives a job when they realize that I am Patient 206," he said.

Officers say that Mr Dinesh was caught by village residents on April 5 for a robbery and handed over to police. Noticing he had a fever, as well as an injured leg from the robbery, he was sent to hospital and tested positive for Covid-19. He stayed there for 31 days.

Mr Dinesh has not contested charges that he and others broke into a house in a nearby village to take coconuts they could sell in order to buy heroin.

After he tested positive, the police who made the arrest, Mr Dinesh's friends and more than 100 people in his neighbourhood were ordered to quarantine at home.

But not everyone complied and Sri Lanka's navy sent in a team of sailors to back-up health workers. As the sailors approached, some of Dinesh's associates panicked and tried to flee before they were caught after a melee.

Of the 28 people seized from the community and quarantined, 16 tested positive. Yet as time passed soldiers in the operation also tested positive, then family members and their acquaintances. With the virus spreading to different parts of the country where sailors were on leave, authorities ordered troops from all arms of the military to report back to their camps.

By the time the outbreak was under control, about 900 navy sailors tested positive, with around 50 other infected people also part of that cluster. Two other clusters also blamed on Mr Dinesh had at least 150 coronavirus cases, according to authorities. The quick spread meant that of Sri Lanka's 2,665 cases, nearly half have ultimately been blamed on one man – Mr Dinesh.

"What to do? It is our fault for using drugs?" he told AP.

Though using the drug since 2002, he said his habit had worsened during the coronavirus lockdown.

His coronavirus infection had allowed him to finally kick the habit however.

"I did not suffer severe withdrawals because I was not a severe addict," he said. "I have now completely given up (drugs)," he said. "I don't even smoke a cigarette.”