How Sri Lanka kept Coronavirus at bay? | Sunday Observer

How Sri Lanka kept Coronavirus at bay?

Health personnel at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases
Health personnel at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases

Only eight persons in Sri Lanka are under observation for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by Friday. Only one COVID-19 positive case was found in Sri Lanka, who was a female Chinese tourist, Epidemiology Unit sources said.

According to the sources, the only case found positive for COVID-19 is clinically cured and in good health. She will be discharged from the hospital soon after the final medical report received confirming her `COVID-19 free status’. Four more persons are under observation at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID). One person at the Ragama Teaching Hospital, two persons at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital and one at the Gampaha District General Hospital. The 33 students who stayed at Diyathalawa Army Camp for a 14-day quarantine period were handed over to their families on Friday evening. They did not have any type of sickness and cleared from a possible COVID-19 infection.

The Health Ministry and the Government has taken measures to prevent the spread of the disease and safeguard the people. The threat of COVID-19 will remain for another few weeks. The National Action Committee appointed by Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi on the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaks discusses daily the steps taken to maintain COVID-19 infections free status’ of Sri Lanka. All need to work together and following instructions and information issued through official channels and not through social media and gossip websites. Only the notices, details and precautionary measures issued by the Government, Health Ministry, the Epidemiology Unit and the WHO are valid.

National Institute of Infectious Diseases

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID/IDH) has treated several suspected patients, but no one found positive for COVID-19 except the Chinese female tourist. The Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Ministry has provided the drugs and medical equipment for patients and instruments required for the health staff. The health staff attends work and patients visit the hospital to obtain treatment as usual. The vested interest seem to spread misinformation through the social media to mislead the public. Therefore, the public should be focused on information communicated through formal channels.

The NIID which was known as the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in the past has a history of over 200 years. The hospital with 10 wards was built primarily to treat smallpox and later added facilities to treat other infectious diseases, such as chickenpox. There are separate wards for male patients and female patients at the hospital with 436 health staff and: seven Medical Consultants (specialist doctors), 49 Medical Officers (MBBS doctors), 154 nursing officers, three nursing sisters/masters, health workers in 31 other categories.

According to NIID Director Dr. Hasitha Aththanayake, all health staffers, especially the minor staff work hard even without extra payments. There is no negative impact on the public living around the NIID.

Medical Research Institute

Health Minister Wanniarachchi thanked the staff of theMedical Research Institute (MRI) for developing a technique, not available in many other countries, to test blood for COVID-19.

The technique developed at the MRI to detect COVID-19 is only available in Hong Kong and Pune, India. A test costs about Rs. 30,000, but the Government conducts the tests free. All health staffers have been given Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to guard against the virus.

Epidemiology Unit

Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera said that COVID-19 was detected about two months ago, and, therefore, information available on the virus is limited. There is no antiviral drug for the virus. Antiviral drugs are rare. It takes a long time to develop them. The only medical intervention is helping the patient to recover himself/herself by treating symptoms. The virus is more active and strong in cold climates.

State hospitals ready

Fourteen hospitals around the country have been identified as treatment centres for suspected patients. Some of them are (NIID), Teaching Hospital (TH), Ragama, District General Hospital (DGH), Gampaha, DGH Negombo, National Hospital Kandy, TH Karapitiya, TH Anuradhapura, TH Jaffna, TH Kurunegala, PGH Rathnapura, TH Batticoloa and PGH Badulla.


According to Minister Wanniarachchi, Respiratory Infections Control Unit Director Dr. Hemantha Herath has been appointed as the responsible authority for the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Assistant Immigration and Emigration Controller Sujeewa Rathnayake, BIA Deputy Manager Lalith Weerasinghe and Disaster Management Officer Dr. Lalinda Kuruppu have been appointed to assist Dr. Herath. This committee will meet at the BIA daily and take necessary steps.

Thermal scanners are in place at the BIA and filling the “Health Declaration Form” is compulsory for passengers who arrive at the BIA. There is a 24 x 7 health desk at BIA.

Only virus patient

According to NIID Director Dr. Hasitha Aththanayake, the only COVID-19 positive case found in Sri Lanka was a female Chinese tourist. She had recovered and will be released from the hospital after the final medical report to assure that the virus is no longer in her body. No Sri Lankan was found with the virus.

Operation Wuhan

The 33 students held up in Wuhan, the epicentre of COVID-19 returned to Sri Lanka and spent their 14-day quarantine period at the Diyathalawa Army Camp. According to the students, they had a safe and enjoyable journey to Sri Lanka and then to Diyathalawa and spent time with all comforts and care. None of them found positive for COVID-19.