Sri Lanka ready to face the challenge -Minister Wanniarachchi | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka ready to face the challenge -Minister Wanniarachchi

Minister of Healthcare and Indigenous Medical Services Pavithra Wanniarachchi
Minister of Healthcare and Indigenous Medical Services Pavithra Wanniarachchi

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the world the Sri Lankan government has stepped up to combat its spread within the island. From appointing a task force to monitoring passengers at the Bandaranaike International Airport and upgrading our health services, the Government has implemented a number of measures to tackle the crisis.

This week the Sunday Observer reporters Rajitha Jagoda Arachchi and Maneshka Borham sat down with Minister of Health Care and Indigenous Medical Services Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Opposition MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) respectively to discuss the measures taken by the Government, its shortcomings and future plans to face a possible spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Excerpts from the Interviews :

Q. The Health Ministry says that the coronavirus outbreak is not serious yet in Sri Lanka. But people do not seem to be satisfied with that claim. Your comment?

A. Even though we are a small country, since ancient times we have overcome many challenges. We have scored many victories with some challenges which other nations saw as difficult or unable to win. Especially in recent history, no other country could eradicate a war. But we did it under the leadership of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Today, the World Health Organisation has announced a Global Public Emergency due to coronavirus. But Sri Lanka has been able to control the spread of it at large, with the support of all stakeholders in our health sector. Therefore, we should not be nervous about the current situation.

Q. What is the current situation of the country in terms of the spread of the virus?

A. We have yet recognised only one patient infected with the coronavirus. Even that patient is recovering now. Sixteen suspicious patients have been reported as at Friday. Now, they are under treatment at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH), Kandy General Hospital, Rathnapura General Hospital and Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. However, we received information claiming that 99.9 percent of these 16 patients are not Corona virus-positive.

Q. What is the progress in controlling the spread of the coronavirus in Sri Lanka?

A. The Medical Research Institute (MRI) has successfully developed a test to detect Corona infected persons. Other than that, once they land, Chinese people should provide their details and also the places they are visiting during their stay in Sri Lanka. We have developed software to monitor Chinese tourists and people at risk of infection based on the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) zones. So, if a Chinese tourist or any other people with the risk of infection stay in a certain MOH zone the respective MOH is fully aware of it and he or she can continuously monitor those people.

Q. Other than installing thermal scanners at the airport, what are the other precautionary measures taken to block the virus entering the country?

A. We have installed the necessary equipment to identify any passenger who enters the airport, whose body temperature has gone above the average.

Also, if a patient is found, we have provided all medical personnel including doctors, nurses and public health officers with the required facilities such as ambulances. We have also trained the airport staff on how to carry on their duties amidst this situation. In addition to that, we have stationed doctors and other health staff to monitor people who enter the country through the harbours too.

Q. Sri Lankan students in Wuhan, China landed in the country yesterday. What are the steps taken to ensure the maximum safety and healthcare of those students?

A.We should be grateful to the Sri Lanka Army for arranging 34 rooms in Diyathalawa for the students who returned from China. This place is built with maximum safety features and we have already equipped the Badulla General Hospital to face any emergency.

Q. Is Sri Lanka ready to face a sudden outbreak of the coronavirus, in terms of medical facilities?

A. We have named 12 hospitals to admit patients who have symptoms of the coronavirus. We have also provided all necessary facilities worth Rs 60 million to those hospitals to ensure the safety of the health staff.

We are also grateful to our Medical Research Institute for finding a test to identify Corona virus positive patients. Everyone in the Health Ministry from the top level to the bottom is working to stop the spread of this virus within our country. I am grateful to everyone who is dedicated to this great cause.

Q. The Government Medical Officers Association recently asked for certain perks from the Government for health staff who closely work with patients with the coronavirus and its symptoms. Is the Ministry ready to fulfill their requests?

A. We are discussing it.

Q.There is much fake news spread through social media in the past few days about the coronavirus. Has the Ministry of Health taken any action to stop such news?

A. We have come across many instances of fake news and myths spread through social media. We have taken action to debunk this news and provide correct information through the Health Promotion Bureau.