Prime Minister invites Sri Lankans to face challenge as one nation | Sunday Observer

Prime Minister invites Sri Lankans to face challenge as one nation

A house of a COVID-19 positive patient being  disinfected   A house of a COVID-19 positive patient being  disinfected  Pic- Rukmal Gamage
A house of a COVID-19 positive patient being disinfected A house of a COVID-19 positive patient being disinfected. Pic- Rukmal Gamage

In the wake of finding eight COVID-19 positive Sri Lankans and over 103 suspected of having contracted the virus, Sri Lanka is also in the COVID-19 map now. The country started its war against COVID-19 a few weeks ago by setting up a special task force, but is now going through a public panic situation, mainly because of fake news spread by social media.

Sri Lanka announced its first local COVID-19 patient on Wednesday, a 52-year-old tourist guide. As per the information, the guide had been with a group of Italian tourists and had travelled to different parts of the country.

However, a second patient, a 44-year-old male, was also identified the following day, a close associate of the first patient. Then the number of patients started to increase, and currently seven COVID-19 positive patients are receiving treatment in IDH and Polonnaruwa General Hospital.

Two people at the Kandakadu quarantine centre in Polonnaruwa were identified as COVID-19 patients on Friday, proving that the decision to send passengers arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport from Italy, South Korea and Iran to quarantine centres, was correct.

Commander of the Army, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva told the media yesterday, that one such immigrant has been identified with suspicious symptoms at early stages and immediately directed to the treatments.

Health authorities have also identified 60 persons who had contact with the first patient and 25 with the second patient. Currently, 13 persons who had contact with the both, are in hospitals going through the COVID-19 test.

At a press conference at the Government Information Department, last Friday, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe elaborated on the measures taken by the Health authorities to detect patients as soon as possible.

“At the beginning the Medical Research Institute only had facilities to conduct the PCR test of detecting COVID-19 patients. Now we have made it available in several other institutes such as Sri Jayawardenepura university, Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Kandy National Hospital and Anuradhapura General Hospital. In addition to that we are considering the installing the facility in North Colombo Teaching Hospital as well” the Director General said.

Dr. Jasinghe also advised the public to enter the government health system, if anyone wants to test whether they are COVID-19 positive or not, if they have symptoms of the disease.

He also assured the media that the Chinese Government has provided necessary quarantine facilities to any Chinese citizen who enters Sri Lanka. However, China has stopped the travel of tour groups while the epicentre of COVID-19 Hubei Province still functions as a lock down area.

Government decisions

Meanwhile a discussion was held between high profile members of the Government including the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat last week.

Several key decisions were made during this meeting, including the ban on issuing visa to European travellers to the country, introducing a 14 days quarantine period for all Sri Lankans returning from Europe, taking steps to sterilising public transport services and studying measures taken by the Chinese Government to prevent COVID-19.

The President also instructed the authorities to establish the COVID-19 task force in a permanent office to increase the efficiency of its duties. Also special attention was paid to reduce public gatherings in order to prevent fast spread of the virus. Possibilities of conducting educational activities through internet and social media were also highlighted during this meeting. We have been preparing since the early stages of the outbreak to face this situation”.

“We have now traced the closest people of the ones who are infected with the virus. And they have now been quarantined. I believe that is where we should place our focus on,” President Rajapaksa told the meeting.

He added, “Compared to other countries in the world, we started preventive measures first and are the most successful I believe. No country had established a task force when we started it.”

Considering the fast spread of the virus, the Government decided to close down all government schools as a safety measure to stop the spread of the virus. The preschool unit of the Department of Education, Western Province also announced on Friday, the temporary closure of all pre-schools in the province until further notice. All government universities and several private higher education institutes also suspended their activities for two weeks as a precautionary measure.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also instructed the National Film Corporation to stop screening movies in all theatres of the country with immediate effect. Addressing the nation, the Prime Minister also invited all Sri Lankans to face the COVID-19 challenge as one nation.

“We should face this challenge as one nation. The government has taken all measures to ensure the control of this pandemic,” he said.

Following the attempt of several people to stock food and sanitary items, above normal consumption, super markets saw a massive sales in the past couple of days. In this backdrop, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena visited the Pettah market on an observation tour. Following the visit, the Minister assured that except turmeric and black gram all consumer items are available with adequate stocks in the market.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also stated that the public should not fear about any food or medicine shortage in the country. “We have stocks of medicine and food for a couple of months,” he said. He also stressed the importance of the kind attitude towards victims of the pandemic preserving Sri Lankan humanity.

A lecturer in Computer Science at the Robert Gordon University in the United Kingdom, Prof. Nirmalie Wiratunga who travelled Sri Lanka recently from the UK told the Sunday Observer, that SriLankan Airlines and BIA staff was handlining the situation professionally. “We were given a big form to fill when we were on the flight. It contained several questions about our health conditions and even required to note down our seat number. So if a person seated next to us was found COVID-19 positive, we will be informed about it later,” she said. 

From around the world . . .

INDIA: A 68-year old woman from Delhi has been confirmed as the second Indian to die from the coronavirus. The woman, who had underlying health conditions, is thought to have been infected by her son who travelled to Switzerland and Italy last month. India’s first fatality from the virus was confirmed on Thursday.

The 76-year-old man, from the southern state of Karnataka, died after returning from a month-long visit to Saudi Arabia on 29 February. People who came in contact with the man are being traced and quarantined, the state’s health minister said. India has 82 confirmed cases of the virus, the health ministry says.

The Delhi woman’s son was “initially asymptomatic but developed a fever and cough after one day”, a government statement said. The family was then screened and the mother and son admitted to hospital.

The 76-year-old Karnataka man was screened at the airport on his return but showed no symptoms at the time. After he developed difficulties last week, he was taken to hospital. He died on Tuesday but it was not reported until Thursday. - BBC News

Italy: Italy began a massive quarantine of the country’s northern Lombardy region early in March and has since extended this lockdown to the entire country. Many people have been ordered to stay home unless commuting to work is absolutely essential, and no one is allowed to leave the country.

Total cases of COVID-19 have quickly increased in Italy, with a peak of 15,113 as of March 12. Daily new cases are also still rising, with 2,651 new cases reported on March 12. The death toll in the country is 1,016 as of March 12. Overall, the recovery rate is reported at 55.3 percent of all cases in Italy as of March 12. - Statista

USA: In a roller-coaster day of coronavirus-related events, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday to provide disaster funding, speed up the U.S. response to the crisis and offer “maximum flexibility” to attack the problem.

Trump, speaking from the White House Rose Garden, said the move would free up $50 billion in additional disaster funding and would also allow the department of Health and Human Services to waive regulations and laws to deliver coronavirus testing quicker.

The president said the emergency measures will allow “maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and to care for patients.” He said some of the steps could open up such local innovations as drive-through testing.”No resource will be spared,” Trump said. Word of the announcement comes amid efforts by the House to agree with the administration on a massive federal response to the crisis following a week of huge swings on Wall Street. - USA Today

SOUTH KOREA: As of March 13, South Korea confirmed the 7.979 cases of infection after the first case of coronavirus in the country on January 20. At present, 510 patients have been discharged from hospitals following full recovery from the virus and 67 deaths have been reported.

Over 240,000 people have been tested. In the first quarter of 2020, it was expected that South Korea will see a loss of around 2.9 trillion South Korean won in tourism revenue if the novel coronavirus spreads rapidly in the country. In addition, the number of foreign tourists visiting South Korea was expected to decrease by two million. - Statista

WHO statistics

Infected – 145,826
Deaths – 5,438
Recovered – 72,550
Countries/territories - 122

Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed at a press conference last week, that even though COVID-19 has emerged as a worldwide pandemic, it can be controlled with a holistic approach.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus and we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time. This is not just a public health crisis. It’s a crisis that will touch every sector so every individual must be involved in the fight. I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, all-of-society approach built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimise the impact,” he said.

Phone numbers to inquire

Acting Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva said that the two special telephone numbers have been introduced to receive information on quarantine process and there should be no fear of rumours. He made this statement at the Army Headquarters in Sri Jayawardenapura yesterday.

The Commander of the Army said 931 people have been admitted to quarantine centers by Friday. In addition to this, about 103 persons who arrived in the country yesterday morning, March 14 are in the process of being sent to quarantine centers. Those who had arrived this morning will be directed to the Kandakadu, Poonani and Diyatalawa Quarantine Centres. But some 150 more are expected to arrive today.

The Army chief spoke about rumours too. “As Sri Lankans, our government and the Ministry of Health have put their trust in the Security Forces. So don’t believe various rumours that are being spread.

“Anyone can contact the Army through 011-309 0502 and 113 telephone numbers and obtain reliable information about the prevailing situation. Social media is sharing false information. One false propaganda about tea from the Army was circulated on social media. The Sri Lankan army is an army which made the impossible possible. Even in the jungle, we never drank tea from half-cut water bottles. We have a mechanism for everything. The person who released this photo has done it with some ulterior motive in mind.

We condemn his act. “As we’re the ones who run quarantine centres, if any injustice happened from our end, please inform us. We will do the best we can.

In addition to the main food provided to them, we also provide additional supplements such as coriander and soups.

COVID-19 protestors tested positive

Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe revealed yesterday at a press conference held in the Department of Government Information that, three COVID-19 patients were among the group of Sri Lankan who returned from Italy recently and protested against the quarantine process at BIA and Kandakadu.

A group of Sri Lankans who returned from Italy protested at the BIA for keeping them in a closed place without proper ventilation. Again they demonstrated objecting of entering to the Kandakadu quarantine centre and one person was seen trying to tighten the neck of the

According to the information gathered, Patient number 4 and 5 (please see the graphic) have landed Sri Lanka while they have fever and other symptoms of COVID-19. As the Milan International Airport was closed down, the duo had driven 800km and taken a flight from different airport to Sri Lanka. As Dr. Jayasinghe said, they have taken paracetamol to skip thermo test and had not informed Sri Lankan authorities about their health conditions.

However, the medical team in Kandakadu had been successful in identifying the duo at the enrolment to the quarantine centre. They had immediately sent the duo to Polonnaruwa District General Hospital.

Also the Kandakadu administration has isolated 14 other people who travelled to Kandakadu from BIA in the bus with the duo. As a result of this special attention the medical team was successful in identifying the patient number six among these 14 people.