The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a global emergency. The new virus emerged in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, but has now spread to at least 27 other countries, including Sri Lanka. At this stage, it is difficult to know the exact impact of the virus, but the human cost is significant. Chinese authorities have said the death toll in the country has as of 13 February exceeded 1,350 people, with the number of confirmed cases rising to almost 60,000 , overtaking the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, which also originated in China and killed 774 people worldwide in 2003. Almost all of the fatalities have been in China so far, barring the cases reported in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
An article published on February 19, 2020 by Caixin, a Chinese financial and business news media group, cites several top Chinese health experts who note that while higher temperatures would decrease the survival time of the coronavirus, they do not affect its ability to infect. US-based television channel National Geographic stated in an article published on February 25, 2020 that although milder viruses subside in warmer months due to what scientists call “seasonality,” it remains “highly uncertain” whether or not the coronavirus will behave similarly.
Whereas promoting several precautionary measures which will purportedly protect people from the novel coronavirus, now code named COVID-19 has been shared tens of thousands of times and health experts have refuted many of the claims, including one that sunlight can kill the virus, saying they are false or misleading. Another misleading post also claims that “drinking warm water” and going “under the sunlight” are effective preventive practices because “coronavirus is not heat resistant and can be killed in high temperatures.” The post adds that people should keep their clothes in an area “with plenty of sunlight exposure in order to kill the virus.” But there is so far no conclusive evidence to suggest that sunlight kills the virus or that the virus would be less infectious in rising temperatures.
The world is facing a massive challenge today and Sri Lankan are not free from this challenge, as it has affected the day-to-day operations of the economy and health sector of our nation. Yet the Government has taken many steps to overcome these challenges and protect its people and tourists from other countries. Lankan health authorities have urged the public to refrain from sharing misleading information in order to curb the coronavirus.