Medi snips | Sunday Observer

Medi snips

5 April, 2020

COVID-19 goes beyond just critical health issues – ILO

The human dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic reach far beyond the critical health response. All aspects of our future will be affected - economic, social and developmental. ”Our response must be urgent, coordinated and on a global scale, and should immediately deliver help to those most in need”, Director General, International Labour Organisation ( ILO) Guy Rider has said in a recent media statement.

He warns that unless getting this right from workplaces, to enterprises, to national and global economies, is predicated on social dialogue between governments and those on the front line – the employers and workers, the 2020s could revert to the 1930s depression years.

ILO estimates are that as many as 25 million people could become unemployed, with a loss of workers’ income of as much as USD 3.4 trillion. However, it is already becoming clear that these numbers may underestimate the magnitude of the impact, he notes, citing glaring gaps exposed in the labour market by the pandemic. .

“Enterprises of all sizes have already stopped operations, cut working hours and laid off staff. Many are teetering on the brink of collapse as shops and restaurants close, flights and hotel bookings are cancelled, and businesses shift to remote working. Often the first to lose their jobs are those whose employment was already precarious - sales clerks, waiters, kitchen staff, baggage handlers and cleaners.”

Heath impacts

Commenting on the health issues arising in a world where only one in five people are eligible for unemployment benefits, he warns that because paid sick leave is not available to many carers and delivery workers are often under pressure to continue working even if they are ill, affecting their overall health. In the developing world, piece-rate workers, day labourers and informal traders may be similarly pressured by the need to put food on the table. We will all suffer because of this, he adds.

We have a chance to save millions of jobs and enterprises, if governments act decisively to ensure business continuity, prevent layoffs and protect vulnerable workers, he emphasises.


Offering solutions he says that as governments try to flatten the upward curve of infection, we need special measures to protect the millions of health care workers (most of them women) who risk their own health for us every day. Truckers and seafarers, who deliver medical equipment and other essentials, must be adequately protected. Teleworking offers new opportunities for workers to keep working, and employers to continue their businesses through the crisis. However, workers must be able to negotiate these arrangements so that they retain balance with other responsibilities, such as caring for children, the sick or the elderly, and of course themselves.

Oncologists issue guidelines to minimise COVD 19 risks among cancer patients

On the heels of the rising concerns of health officials with regard to dealing with patients with cancer who could be exposed to COVID-19 leading to further complications in their already lowered immunity systems, the Sri Lanka College of Oncologists has issued a set of guidelines to all cancer patients . They have explained to cancer patients islandwide that the virus now spreading across Sri Lanka and the world should not be taken lightly and could be specially harmful to cancer patients with impaired immune systems. Hence all precautions must be taken to minimise close contact to infected persons at all times.

The advice given is as follows:

1. Patients who have completed active treatment, please refrain from coming to clinics, follow up radiological investigations (Ultra sound scans, CT scans, Mammograms etc) till further notice

2. Patients who have completed cytotoxic treatment (Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery) but who need ongoing medicine (Tamoxifen, thyroxine etc) please send a responsible person with the relevant documents to collect them from hospitals.

3. Patients who are on active treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy or planned surgeries for cancer), will need to attend hospital as previously planned. Please note relevant units will decide if treatment need to be modified, on a case by case basis.

4. If you have any respiratory symptoms (Cough, fever, shortness of breath) please contact the nearest hospital. If you have reason to suspect you have got COVID-19 infection (above symptoms and recent foreign travel or contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient) please contact the closest designated COVID-19 treatment centre, and do not directly visit an oncology unit.

“These measures are taken to minimize the risk of COVD-19 virus to cancer patients. New dates will be given for all missed appointments when the acute period is over. Please contact your own cancer treatment unit for further clarifications “, the team of oncologists from the SLCO have said in their media release .

Meanwhile all Provincial and Regional Directors of Health Services, Directors of National Hospital /Apeksha Hospital, Teaching Hospitals/Provincial and District General Hospitals, Medical Superintendents of Base Hospitals, Regional Epidemiologists, have also been instructed to adhere to the following interim guidelines for management of cancer patients prepared based on the recommendations of the College of Oncologists and the prevailing situation of COVID -19 outbreak, to provide optimal care for Cancer patients without contracting COVID 19. This guideline is intended for all healthcare personnel involved in cancer care services a note from the Director Health Services has stated.

Medicines in plenty

The news that medicines and health equipment was readily available and there was no shortage has been welcomed by the public amid fears of shortages due to the surge in panic buying following the coronavirus scare. The Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries Vice Chairman was quoted as saying that the situation had no effect on the country’s supplies to date and said that pharmaceutical importers had buffer stocks for several months.

Health officials concerned mental problems can surge amid COVD 19 fears

Health officials specialising in mental health are concerned that mental problems of those already afflicted by anxiety and depression could get aggravated due to fears over the COVD 19. “Those over 55 years of age are particularly vulnerable as they have fears regarding obtaining their medicines regularly during curfew hours, feeding their families with nutritious food, and fear they may not be able to access a medical facility if they get ill suddenly, despite the Health Ministry repeatedly reassuring them there was no need for such fears or panic.”, a health spokesperson told the Sunday Observer on grounds of anonymity. He said that children of school going age, teenagers and young adults were also likely to be mentally affected by long enforced hours at home . “Many of them miss physical contact with friends.. Others spend more time with their computers and become addicted to the electronic device.

We urge parents to use this time to bond with their children, and with each other and get to know each other better. Maintaining a positive outlook would help them get through this crisis with good outcomes.”, a clinical psychologist dealing with young people said. Online counselling for people with mental problems would be helpful and is tried out in some countries with success, he added.