The rapid increase in coronavirus cases threatens Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. After an initial phase during which the pandemic was kept under control, the number of cases has surged since 4 October, official sources said.

According to health authorities, Sri Lanka has reported more than 5000 cases with 19 deaths. At present, the main cluster is related to the Brandix factory .

This apparel factory, owned by one of the largest garment manufacturers in the country, is headed by billionaire businessman Ashrof Omar, who is now facing a criminal investigation for fuelling the second wave of COVID-19 cases, official sources said.

Police spokesman, Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana, said that a Police team has been deployed to investigate the spread of the virus from the Brandix factory.

DIG Rohana disclosed that the team led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) will be guided by the Criminal Investigations Department.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera had earlier instructed acting IGP, C.D. Wickremeratne, to investigate the spread of the coronavirus from the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda.

The acting IGP had been directed to submit a progress report on the investigation in two weeks.

A 39-year-old woman from the factory who had been admitted to the Gampaha Hospital with fever earlier this month had tested positive for COVID-19.

PCR tests later found that several employees of the factory had contracted the virus.

Brandix was later accused of failing to prevent the spread of the virus in the factory and of bringing down some Indians who may have transmitted the virus to the local staff.

The factory eventually became the epicentre of the coronavirus second wave in Sri Lanka.

However, Brandix insisted that all stipulated protocol was followed concerning its employees and their families returning to Sri Lanka from India.

Brandix Group Chief Executive Officer Ashrof Omar has called for compassion and assured that the company did not break any protocol when repatriating its Sri Lankan colleagues and their families back home from India.

He also rejected allegations of shifting any orders or material from India into the Minuwangoda factory.

Omar also assured accountability after statements were made that the employee safety protocol was compromised.

Coordinating Officer to the AG, State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne stated that the Attorney General’s attention was drawn towards the dangerous conditions facing human lives due to the Brandix COVID-19 cluster.

The Attorney General Instructed that attention must be directed towards determining whether direct negligence or carelessness on the part of the management and representatives of the company or state officials had led to the spread of COVID-19 from the factory.

He also ordered to immediately launch a criminal investigation on the matter and to look into whether any offences under the Penal Code or the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance are uncovered and report back to him.