Recent decisions of the Sri Lankan government were precautionary and preventive measures to keep all citizens safe is well guided by the President; the citizens must be vigilant to prevent the COVID-19 corona virus spreading in the country. For the country with the rest of the world is facing a massive challenge today as it has affected the day-to-day operations of the economy and health sector of our nation; it is commendable the government has taken many steps to overcome these challenges and protect local people and tourists from other countries. The healthcare system and its units of professionals, credited with the elimination of several diseases such as malaria and polio in the past has the potential to rise up to any challenge; but the corona virus may yet be the biggest challenge it has faced in recent times. If all work together and stay calm, then Sri Lankan can get through this global crisis with minimal impact.
To its credit, the local health officials on confirmation that a Chinese woman had arrived in the country from Wuhan was tested positive for the Coronavirus, shifted into high gear and took preventive measures necessary; weeks later the woman was cured and returned back to China. Further, to safeguard local students and labour force bringing them back home from China was a big challenge for the government. With the involvement of the Sri Lankan Airline crew and the tri-forces, the health authorities assisted these Lankan students and labour force to return from Wuhan Province, kept them under surveillance at Diyatalawa Army Camp for two weeks before releasing them to their homes was a well accomplished mission by the government. The first ever Sri Lankan detected to have been infected with COVID 19, is being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) at Angoda and his family members had been placed under home quarantine. The 52-year-old tour guide from Colombo District had travelled to many parts of the country with a group of Italian tourists and was diagnosed with the viral disease.
Further, as coronavirus was new to the country people were less aware of it and with doctors having insufficient experience to diagnose did put people in crisis; but as the result of the President’s instructions the National Action Committee (NAC) on the Coronavirus issue is led by Health Minister, was appointed with the task to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country. The Government took measures to establish 24-hour hotlines, for members of the public to call in if they have any questions regarding the coronavirus. Further thermal detection machines were installed at BIA to screen all passengers arriving in the country, with both doctors and PHIs placed on duty at the airport. On-arrival visa for Chinese nationals was suspended and applications made online scrutinised before visas are granted and those allowed entry are monitored throughout their stay by health authorities. PHIs will carry out medical checks on ships before passengers disembark and Regional hospitals geared to house patients suffering from virus. Separate wards have also been allocated in the North Colombo General Hospital (Ragama) as well as the main government hospitals in Gampaha, Negombo, Kandy, Karapitiya, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Badulla, Ratnapura and Batticaloa to keep suspected patients in isolation.
Anyone feeling sick within a month of returning from overseas, in particular from China are advised to isolate themselves from others, get medical attention and follow good hand and respiratory hygiene. They should call the helpline number 071-0107107 and 011-3071073 and follow directions. Inbound travel and tourism needs a safety regime. On-arrival visas are not being issued to Chinese travellers as a temporary measure, but the Government has to assure the travellers from the rest of the world that Sri Lanka is taking all necessary steps to confront the Coronavirus challenge. The Medical Research Institute (MRI) rose to the challenge of developing a blood test locally. The Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Mulleriyava, is one of the best such facilities in Asia. Moreover, Sri Lanka’s free healthcare system is open to foreigners enabling quick treatment. All national entry points are geared to monitor incoming passengers not only from Asia but also from the rest of the world using thermal scanners and other equipment and trained personnel. Thus the Health Ministry has taken all measures possible to contain further spread of the viral infection.
The public for their part must frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water; when coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands; shall avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough; and seek medical care early and share previous travel history with the health care provider, if they have fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals. The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Sri Lanka, one of the least effected countries by this virus, is forced to put up its guard, and the care taker government of the President has taken many good steps to get rid of the dangerous corona virus and the media is used well to do its greatest duty to educate the public. People are slowly but surely adjusting to the new situation to make sure they are safe to restore the little island nation from this dangerous virus outbreak from China.
The President of Sri Lanka acknowledging the nature of this threat which could be nationally devastating if left to get out of control, has cautiously taken many effective measures with a well thought out plan put in place to contain the spread of corona virus in the country. As such there is no need for people to panic unnecessarily regarding corona virus related developments in the country. Instead, they should act with responsibility by adhering to the national plan to prevent the spread and disregard all rumors and fake news as the government has left no room for disruption of day to day life; to secure the country from the threat of the COVID -19 CORONA VIRUS.