Colombo, April 26 (President’s Media Division): In a TV discussion with his Principal Advisor, Lalith Weeratunga, on April 20, on some key concerns regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa explained the steps taken when a person tests positive for COVID-19 virus.
“At the moment, we have minimized the spread of the virus in the country. This has been possible because, from the very beginning, Sri Lanka had a proper mechanism to collect information needed to stop the infection from spreading from one patient to another,” the President said.
“When someone shows symptoms of COVID-19, that person is sent to the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Angoda and for a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) examination, which is the best in the world. If the results are positive for the virus, the origin and source from which the person got infected is investigated.”
“Every person that the patient had closely associated, casually met and places visited are identified. Then, the people who associated with those who had come in contact with the patient are identified. This method of identifying the first and second rings of contacts is known as “contact tracing”. The group of people thus identified to have associated with the infected person is known as a cluster.”
“Identification of clusters well in advance has enabled Sri Lanka to quarantine people before symptoms develop. Analysts have acknowledged, even in international forums, that Sri Lanka’s success in managing the crisis is because of contact tracing carried out methodically by the intelligence units of the country.”
“The infected person’s immediate family members and people who closely associated with the patient are quarantined. Those who did not associate with the patient directly will be subjected to self-quarantine. Public Health Officers and Police Officers regularly monitor those under self-quarantine.”
“If there is a possibility that a larger group of people had got compromised and are in danger of getting infected, then that entire area will be isolated. Most cases currently being reported are from such groups.”
“It is clear that some carriers had entered the country before the quarantine program began. There had also been cases from countries like Indonesia where carriers had not been anticipated. They were identified as COVID-19 patients only after the symptoms appeared.”
“Daily I receive all data pertaining to every one of these cases. Further decisions are taken after in-depth discussions with the Chief of Intelligence.”
Timeline of Action Taken
Sri Lanka has controlled the COVID-19’s impact because of the people’s commitment, the President said.
“Everyone has played a part. In the health sector, from the laborer onwards to Public Health Inspectors (PHI), nurses, specialist doctors have rendered a huge service. The Tri-Forces, police and intelligence units have contributed tirelessly. It has been the commitment of the public sector, from secretaries to ministries, districts and divisions which had ensured essential services without interruption. Citizens have quietly borne the difficult times.
Mid-January 2020: The first case of the COVID-19 was reported from Wuhan in China. The Chinese Government warned the world about the new virus.
January 26, 2020: A National Task Force was established bringing the Health Ministry, Tri-Forces, Police, Intelligence and other related disciplines together. Their primary task was to advice the government on steps to control the epidemic.
January 27, 2020: The first COVID-19 patient in Sri Lanka was identified. She was a Chinese tourist.
February 01, 2020: A special flight was sent to bring back 34 Sri Lankans and their immediate families who were studying in Wuhan. As soon as they landed, they were quarantined in the Diyatalawa Army Camp. Thereby, the virus was prevented from spreading in the country.
February 10, 2020: It was decided that arrivals from Italy, Korea and Iran should be sent to a quarantine center.
February 16, 2020: It was decided that everyone who arrives in Sri Lanka must be quarantined.
February 19, 2020: The Chinese lady who was found infected with the virus on January 27 had fully recovered and left for China.
March 11, 2020: The first Sri Lankan infected with COVID-19 was identified. He was admitted to the IDH. Since then, almost every day new patients were identified. Out of them, 38 were those who had come from abroad and were already in quarantine centers. Since then, another 79 from quarantine centers had been tested positive for COVID-19. It was also found that another 139 outside quarantine centers, were infected in various ways.
March 12, 2020: Every school, university and education center was closed. But while the schools and universities were physically closed, a separate Task Force was established to facilitate distance learning.
March 18, 2020: All arrivals at the Airport were stopped. A special flight was sent to bring back home 900 pilgrims who got stranded in India. They were sent to a quarantine center.
March 20, 2020: An All Island curfew that was imposed.
March 27, 2020: The first “work from home” week for public servants was declared from March 20 to March 27.
Since March 27 to date, Sri Lanka has lost seven to COVID-19. New cases continue to be added to the total number of infected cases almost on a daily basis. At the same time, a steady number of recoveries are also increasing almost daily.