Today, Sri Lanka remains under an islandwide curfew as the nation battles the spread of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak which has entered our country.
From the day, the first patient was detected in January, who was a Chinese national on holiday in Sri Lanka, the government acted swiftly in containing a spread. The Health Ministry, within hours after she was detected, traced down all those who she had associated with while being in the country and put them all under quarantine. Fortunately the virus was contained back then, as even those she had closely associated with such as her husband tested negative.
The Chinese national was successfully treated at the National Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), in the outskirts of Colombo and within 3 weeks she made a full recovery. The work done by our team of medics was remarkable as they worked around the clock to ensure that the patient undergoes a quick recovery so she can return back home to China, safely to her family.
Back then, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa started immediate work as the virus spread rapidly from country to country. A Presidential Task Force to fight the COVID-19 was launched with the participation of all stake holders including doctors, military and medical experts. The task force met on a daily basis, to brief the President and Prime Minister on what steps could be taken if the COVID-19 hits us. Medical teams were closely monitoring the outbreak globally while teams also remained in touch with the World Health Organization.
Today, two months later, Sri Lanka is facing the COVID-19 threat again, with 80 patients confirmed to be infected with the virus as of March 22. A majority of those who have tested positive are those who have returned back to the country from Italy, and many who unfortunately did not undergo the required quarantine procedures and traveled back to their homes, posing a risk to their family members and their neighborhoods.
Despite whatever the reasons, now is not the time for a blame game. As responsible citizens, we all have to now ensure that we listen to the necessary authorities and implement the required preventive measures set out by the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization such as social distancing, remaining indoors, washing hands etc.
Today, as authorities are trying their utmost to keep each and every one of us safe from the virus, another positive initiative I would like to highlight is how many corporates are coming forward, understanding their social responsibilities, by voluntarily helping the government by giving their luxurious hotel premises as quarantine centers as well as making financial and urgent medical donations.
As I write this article, as of now Citrus group has come forward by giving its Citrus Hotel premises in Waskaduwa, Hemas has come forward by giving its Club Hotel Dolphin, the John Kellls Grouo has come forward by giving its Trinco Blu by Cinnamon in Trincomalee, all as quarantine centers whilst the Hidramani Group is working with JAAF and medical professionals to develop protective clothing for healthcare workers who are on the frontlines fighting against the COVID-19. Several businessmen have also come forward, pledging donations including business tycoon Dhammika Perera who has pledged Rs.70 million worth of urgent health care facilities including ventilators and other urgently needed ICU equipment. In addition to these leading corporates, we are seeing several small and medium business owners also coming forward to assist in this time of need by offering vegetables, fruits, facilities, masks, gloves and numerous other things and services which are the needs of the hour for several healthcare workers and forces.
To all these people, we in the government have only one word – THANKYOU. We greatly appreciate the assistance rendered by all at this time of need and this proves beyond doubt that Sri Lankans can and will remain united especially in the time of crisis. Without each others help, we will not be able to fight this successfully within a short span of time.
As I write this, Sri Lanka’s military personnel are also putting up another quarantine facility, adjoining the IDH, have finished equipping the Welikanda Base Hospital and also the Mulleriyawa Hospital which will be used to treat further patients.
Our medical teams, are working round the clock to treat all those detected while our military and PHIs and police are working tirelessly to keep all citizens safe by doing house to house checks and ensuring the over 15,000 who are presently under quarantine have all the necessary facilities they require.
The ongoing curfew may cause us all inconvenience but the authorities are working round the clock to ensure YOUR safety.
Sri Lanka, is an island which has been through much, defeated a 30 year war, hit by terror blasts last year, but we have always bounced back stronger. While we pray that the world recovers from this deadly virus, Sri Lanka can and will beat this virus. As a united nation, lets do our part to ensure we follow the required guidelines of the Health Ministry and WHO because the sooner we get rid of COVID-19, the sooner we will begin to flourish again.