Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 – the Sri Lankan context

Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 – the Sri Lankan context

22nd of April 2020

Ushani Atapattu, Sri Lanka

The emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 (covid-19) from Wuhan of Hubei Province, China, a global pandemic which exists even to the date of writing started. As a result, many countries that were infected, had to undergo strict biosecurity measures in order to stop the spread of the virus. This did not make Sri Lanka an exception and the Sri Lankan authorities formulated the National Corona Task Force on the 26th of January 2020 to act against covid-19.

Sri Lanka was free from covid-19 until the first patient was identified at the Bandaranayake International Airport, Katunayaka on 27th of February 2020. She was a 44-year-old traveller from Wuhan, China and was admitted to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases where she was treated until she was completely recovered and discharged on 19th of February. This was the only SARS-Cov-2 incidence in Sri Lanka until 10th of March 2020 where the first local−a travel guide involved with a group of Italian travellers was reported with covid-19 infection. Since then the number of cases reported within the country sored rapidly.

In order to control the spread of the virus, the government closed schools and universities for academic work and all the public gatherings were suspended. Since the covid-19 cases continued to rise, the government declared public holidays from 16th March 2020 onwards and non-essential services were directed to work from home. Although government instructed the public to limit movement as much as possible, these were ineffective.

Thus on 19th of March 2020 the government-imposed island-wide police curfew to contain covid-19 which persists in the country even to this date. As few districts (Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha,, Puttalam, Jaffna and Kandy) were recognised as critical locations for the spread of covid -19 apart from those districts, curfew in other districts was lifted for few hours in order to fulfil the essential requirements of the community.

The government is educating the public through many channels such as the television and various social media to make the public aware on preventing the covid-19 spread. A mandatory quarantine period of 14 days was placed to those who arrived at Sri Lanka from overseas and for their potential contacts at 37 quarantine centres located island wide. Furthermore, some of the potential contacts of covid-19 positives were self-quarantined at their own houses for a period of 14 day and they were monitored with the help of the public health inspector of the region and the police. Two villages, Atalugama and Akurana belonging to Sabaragamuwa and Central provinces were imposed with a mandatory 14-day lockdown as covid-19 positive individuals who travelled to several places and had social contacts were detected. The figure 1 summarises the key events and measures taken but the relevant authorities in the country.

Figure 1: Cumulative number of cases and key interventions taken by the Sri Lankan authorities. Source: Exit strategy of COVID-19 epidemic in Sri Lanka Recommendations of the College of Community Physicians (Public Health Specialists) of Sri Lanka (CCPSL); 15/04/2020)

Although, the government was able to control the exponential spread of the virus, few daily cases are been reported from different regions of the country and majority of these cases are based in Colombo. The fatality rate at present is 2.26% which is lower than the global average of 6.88%. At the time of writing, Sri Lanka is having 310 confirmed covid-19 cases (Figure 2) where, 102 have recoveries and 7 fatalities were recorded and 158 patients are under medical care at several hospitals throughout the country. All the seven fatalities were cremated according to the WHO guidelines even though few religious objections emerged

Figure 2 Timeline of cumulative increase of covid-19 confirmed cases in Sri Lanka till 17/04/2020. Source: https://hpb.health.gov.lk/covid19-dashboard/

Owing to the curfew, lock down and social distancing, most of the routine lives of Sri Lankans got altered and apart from services that had been identified as essential such as health care and police, all the other non-essential jobs are halted. No public transport facilities were functioning. The island-wide curfew was lifted on 20th April 2020 with strict restrictions. However, critical locations in Colombo district is still under police curfew and the future of covid-19 in Sri Lanka is still indecisive.

Kandy city, Sri Lanka resuming its activities after the curfew, 22nd April 2020
Sources:

COVID-19: Live Situational Analysis Dashboard of Sri Lanka, Health Promotion Bureau, https://hpb.health.gov.lk/covid19-dashboard/

Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports

Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, http://www.epid.gov.lk/web/index.php?lang=en

Exit strategy of COVID-19 epidemic in Sri Lanka Recommendations of the College of Community Physicians (Public Health Specialists) of Sri Lanka (CCPSL); 15/04/2020)

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