Sri Lanka battles on with COVID-19 | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka battles on with COVID-19

Sri Lanka’s battle with COVID-19, amidst many positive results so far has now bumped into the most awaited second wave of the virus spread. The Indian Ocean island has identified 159 COVID-19 cases as of yesterday morning, where 24 have now returned to their homes after full recovery. Despite the commendable efforts of the health authorities, the country reported five deaths by yesterday morning, due to COVID-19.

As per the data released by the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry at 10 am Friday, 121 COVID-19 patients from 13 districts are currently being treated at hospitals, while 250 persons are under close observation. 

NINETEEN CLUSTERS

Since the first COVID-19 patient was detected on January 27, a Chinese tourist, the Government of Sri Lanka along with the health authorities, the Armed Forces and the Police implemented a comprehensive mechanism to fight the pandemic, long before it was declared a world-wide pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Later the first local COVID-19 case was detected on March 11, and since then 19 cluster points of the virus have been identified.

Deputy Inspector General, Attorney-at-law Ajith Rohana briefed the media about these clusters, last week. “As per the findings all patients found in Sri Lanka are related to these 19 points,” he said. 

Accordingly, patients were found in different parts of the country including, Mattegoda, Marawila, Nugegoda, Beruwala, Dehiwala, Colombo 8, Kuliyapitiya, Wennappuwa, Ja-Ela, Ratmalana, Akurana, Nattandiya, Colombo 4, Atalugama, Bandaragama, Puttalam, Wellampitiya, Beruwala (a second point) and Jaffna. As the DIG explained, all patients were direct or indirect contacts of patients originally found in these areas.

The DIG requested the public living in red districts, i.e. Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Kandy, Jaffna and Puttalam to be vigilant about their recent contacts in a bid to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“Medical Officers, nurses and other healthcare workers are extending their maximum contribution to combat the pandemic. The Army and the Air Force are directly involved in the quarantine process while the Navy is also supporting. Meanwhile, the Police are involved in monitoring the self-quarantine process, while the State Intelligence Service (SIS) has provided an excellent service in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19” he added.

DIG Ajith Rohana said the SIS started to find information about suspected people with the viral infection from Day One where a Sri Lankan was diagnosed with the disease. Once a patient is detected, the SIS starts to investigate the people who associated with the patient and also second contacts of the patient, he explained. “That is an important duty carried out by the SIS at present. Sri Lanka is the only country now which follows such investigation” he said. However, according to health experts, this disease has not yet entered the community spread stage.

Meanwhile a group of consultant doctors including the President of the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) Dr Lalantha Ranasinghe, Secretary Dr Ashoka Gunaratne presented several suggestions and mechanisms for the control of the spread of COVID-19 to Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, last week. These suggestions comprised, expanding all research and criteria on coronavirus, treating patients arriving at hospitals for cough or cold at special wards and providing life insurance facilities for the health workers treating the coronavirus patients.

As the country entered the third week under police curfew, the Government continued the distribution of essential dry rations to all parts of the country while cooperative units across the island have started delivery services in their respective areas. Most of the Urban Councils too have started food delivery services encouraging stay at home for citizens during the curfew.

Considering the pensioners, Head of the Special Task Force on Essential Services, Basil Rajapaksa instructed all pharmacies to stay open on April 2,3 and 6 to serve the needs of pensioners. In addition, postal workers across the island were engaged in a home delivery service of pensions. Health Authorities have also received support from the Department of Postal Services to distribute medicine to regular patients of Government hospital clinics.

Considering the prevailing health conditions, the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration announced on Wednesday, a further extension of all types of visas, which had already been extended from March 14 to April 12 according to a previous decision. The Department has now decided to extend all visas until May 12.

IRRESPONSIBLE CITIZENS

However, due to the irresponsible behaviour of citizens, the police and the military had to quarantine two villages, Atalugama in Bandaragama and Akurana in Kandy to prevent the spread of the disease. Police also raided a house last week in Minuwangoda where 31 foreign women lodged without following due quarantine procedures.

Since the curfew imposed on March 20, the Police announced the arrest of more than 12,200 persons and 3,000 vehicles belonging to the arrestees.

Among other wrongdoers during the crisis period are individuals who spread misleading, fake or hate news through social media who were continuously hunted down by the Police. Acting Inspector General ordered Officers in Charge of every police station in the country to take stern action against the culprits and to produce them before courts.  

VICTIMS OF THE PANDEMIC

Taking the pandemic into a whole new level, the first fatality of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka was reported on March 28. The victim (60) was the second Sri Lankan diagnosed with the virus. A resident of Marawila, he was receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of IDH when he died.

On March 30 Sri Lanka reported its second COVID-19 death. The deceased was a resident (male) of Kochchikade who had been receiving treatment at the Negombo Hospital. 

Two more deaths were reported last Thursday (2). One was a 73-year-old male, a resident of Maradana who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 while receiving treatment at Jayewardenepura Hospital. He lost his life while being admitted to the IDH, Director General of Health, Dr Anil Jasinghe stated in a press communique. The patient has been recognized with diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure for a long time. It was also reported that he had been hospitalized at a critical stage.

The fourth person who succumbed to the virus, was a 58-year-old male, also receiving treatment at the IDH. According to information released by the health authorities, he had died due to Pneumonia related complications.

The fifth victim was reported on Friday night, a 40-year-old male receiving treatment at the Welikanda Hospital. He was a returnee from Italy and was found COVID-19 positive during the quarantine process.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Following the continuous drop of the Rupee against the US Dollar (Rs 193.75 as of Friday night), the Cabinet decided last week to temporarily suspend imports of non-essential goods except crude oil and pharmaceuticals. Cabinet Spokesman Minister Ramesh Pathirana announced the Government strategy was to build a home-based local agriculture economy in the post-COVID stage.

Accordingly, Minister of Agriculture Chamal Rajapaksa has decided to launch a home-based cultivation program to grow kollu, undu, red onion, turmeric and to utilise abandoned lands in this endeavour.

Understanding the economic difficulties, the World Bank (WB) announced Friday to assist efforts of Sri Lanka to combat the COVID-19 by approving a 128.6 million dollar loan. Issuing a statement the WB said the package “will prioritize stopping or slowing the spread of the virus, reducing case numbers, and preventing outbreaks in communities”.

The financial package introduced by WB comprises a 35 million dollar loan for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a 93.6 million dollar credit from the International Development Association. Using these funds the first-ever Bio Safety Level 3 laboratory of the country will be developed at the National Medical Research Institute, with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commended efforts of Sri Lanka during the pandemic, highlighting the political leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“I had a good call with @GotabayaR, President of Sri Lanka, on COVID 19 today. We discussed health and economic impacts #COVID 19 can have on his country and the whole region. I thanked him for mobilizing the whole-of-government in the fight against the #coronavirus. Together!” he had tweeted.

During this phone conversation, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had requested WHO’s support to obtain International aid to recover industries affected by the pandemic. Thereby the President had specifically requested assistance from the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other leading countries that offer bilateral loans to allow the loans payable to be suspended or to re-align these loans. 

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