A state of public health emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka due to a severe shortage of medicines and equipment, the BBC reported on Monday.

The announcement was made by the country’s Government Medical Officers’ Association after an emergency meeting during the island country’s worst economic meltdown since its independence.

“There is a severe shortage of essential medicines and other medical equipment at all hospitals and healthcare places across the island,” the GMOA said in a statement. “Both the government and health ministry have failed to prevent a complete breakdown of the medical system.”

The body said that committees formed at hospital levels will decide about the management of medicines and equipment in their system, giving priority to emergency and essential treatment only.

Sri Lanka follows a universal public health care system, which is funded by taxpayer money, according to the BBC. It means citizens have free access to healthcare at any state-run facility.

However, the country is facing an economic crisis as its foreign reserves have hit rock bottom. The country had declared an economic emergency in August. Government-run hospitals are running out of life-saving medicines due to a shortage of foreign exchange needed for imports. Several state-run hospitals have stopped conducting surgeries too.

The country is also facing a severe shortage of petrol, diesel, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items. The shortage of fuel has led to power cuts of up to 13 hours daily in the country.

On Saturday, authorities had declared a 36-hour nationwide curfew amid a series of protests over the economic crisis.

However, despite the curfew and heavy police presence, university students in Colombo took out a march and shouted anti-government slogans. Similar protests were also held in Kandy district.

Political crisis

Opposition leaders on Monday rejected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s offer to form a unity government, Associated Press reported.

“The people of this country want Gotabaya and the entire Rajapaksa family to go,” United People’s Force leader Ranjith Madduma Banadara told the news agency. “We can’t go against the people’s will and we can’t work alongside the corrupt.”

Rajapaksa had laid down the offer after his entire Cabinet, except for his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, had resigned en masse from their positions at a late-night meeting on Sunday.

Among the 26 leaders to resign also included prime minister’s son Namal Rajapaksa and his brothers Chamal and Basil Rajapaksa.

The president had then sworn in four temporary Cabinet ministers to continue the main governmental functions of foreign affairs and finance, and to help lead the ruling party’s parliamentary group, according to Associated Press.

Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition had won 145 out of 225 seats in the last election. However, 11 of its coalition partners that collectively hold 30 seats have indicated they will sit independently in Parliament when it will meet for a session on Tuesday, Reuters reported.