Sri Lanka in the throes of fighting COVID-19 | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka in the throes of fighting COVID-19

The third batch of 223 returnees who had completed the 14 days quarantine period
The third batch of 223 returnees who had completed the 14 days quarantine period

For nearly three weeks Sri Lanka has been fighting the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has swept across the world. With 512, 614 confirmed cases and a death toll of 23, 714, the disease has nearly crippled the world. Italy, Spain and the United States have been hard hit as patient numbers have rapidly increased in a matter of days. In Sri Lanka, the number of patients has gradually increased to 106 of which seven have now recovered. Another 238 are currently under observation in hospitals. While no death has been recorded from the disease in Sri Lanka this at least for now is a silver lining to an anxious nation. Since the discovery of the country’s second COVID-19 patient on March 10, this week no new patients were reported during the 48 hours between Thursday and Friday. A small victory in the face of adversity. 

As health care officials continue to work around the clock, treating patients and carrying out awareness campaigns the Military, Police and other essential services have been instrumental in combating the disease. This week many who were in quarantine after arriving from abroad were allowed to return home on completing the required quarantine period. 

On Friday 501 persons at the Diyatalawa, Kandakadu and Punani  centres were allowed to return home. “I returned to Sri Lanka from Milan and was in quarantine at the Kandakadu Quarantine Center” a returnee from Italy told the media. According to him, the Army had treated them well. “I thank the Sri Lanka Army,” he said adding that Sri Lanka seems visibly safer than Italy at the moment. On Thursday another 223 persons were sent home after completing the quarantine period. 

The Government imposed an island-wide curfew on March 10 lifting it at staggered intervals in various areas. Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha identified as the most vulnerable districts have come under a continuous curfew until further notice. Nevertheless, the Government hastened to provide numerous relief measures to the people. It facilitated the return of nearly 25, 000 BOI factory workers to their villages after necessary health checks. It also moved through the Consumer Affairs Authority to implement a maximum retail price on essential food items to ensure that the people are protected from unscrupulous vendors.

In many areas the Police and Municipal Councils have been distributing essentials to the public while sellers have also been allowed to make home deliveries. Commercial Banks, the Central Bank, and the Treasury have been declared essential services. Rs 800 Million has been allocated to provide the necessary equipment to hospitals. Directives were also given by the Post Master General to open Post Offices for at least two hours on days the curfew is lifted. Meanwhile, the Government has assured that  salaries of the government sector employees will be paid by April 10. 

According to health experts, the coming week will be crucial to Sri Lanka in its battle against COVID-19. Following a week’s curfew, the Government on Friday announced a work from home period from March 30 to April 3. The period would apply to government, semi-government and even private sector employees. However, as permission was granted for pharmacies, other essential delivery services, and sellers to function during the curfew, more vehicles and movement of people were seen prompting the government to caution the public. The President’s Media Unit in a statement yesterday requested the people to adhere to curfew regulations. It noted that no delivery vehicles other than those authorized by the Task Force set up to combat the virus will be permitted on the roads. Travelling between districts continues to be banned while only state pharmacies are now allowed to be open. The release stated that the Police and the Army have been directed to ensure that curfew regulations are strictly followed. Commenting on the decision DIG Ajith Rohana said Police bail will not be granted to those arrested for  curfew violations. Meanwhile, leave of all Police Officers have been cancelled till April 10 to support these efforts. 

Through all of these measures, the message remains clear. According to the Director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital Dr. Hasitha Attnayake, the best thing people can do right now is to simply stay at home.