Op 6 juli 2020 ontvingen we een schrijven van onze voorzitter in Sri Lanka over de corona toestand in Sri Lanka.



How Sri Lanka successfully curtailed the coronavirus pandemic

With a population of about 22.5 million people, Sri Lanka has only 2076 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with eleven deaths. Sri Lanka's success story can be partially attributed to its relatively high coronavirus testing rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Sri Lanka also has seen milder cases of COVID-19 due in part to an early lockdown. "More than 50% of the COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka are of people between the ages of 20-60. These are relatively younger people who are less vulnerable to a severe presentation of the disease. A reason why most of the cases are mild may be that the lockdown in Sri Lanka started very early," Razia Pendse, the WHO's representative to Sri Lanka, told press.

Having learnt from its past experiences with numerous communicable and non-communicable diseases, Sri Lanka also invested in its public health surveillance system, which has proven to come in handy during the current coronavirus pandemic.

Sri Lanka closely monitored the pandemic's movement right after the first case appeared in the nation, tracking any potential COVID-19 suspects. "The first case came out in Sri Lanka in the last week of January, after which there were no cases till about mid-March. During that gap, the government ensured that the public health surveillance was activated to find any cases with respiratory illnesses. Once the cases were identified, we conducted the needed diagnostics so that we were able to rule out any suspected COVID-19 cases," explained Pendse from the WHO.Sri Lanka had already developed a surveillance system based on the Open Source DHIS2 platform in early 2020. The system has since become the basis for the worldwide deployment of the DHIS2 COVID-19 response package via the Health Information Systems Program (HISP) to respond to the outbreak.

Oommen C. Kurian, the head of the Health Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an Indian think tank, said the small nation of Sri Lanka cannot be directly compared to its larger, more populated neighbor, India.

"A direct comparison between India and Sri Lanka is difficult. Sri Lanka is a very small country. Managing that population is easier as compared to India," explained Kurian. "Sri Lanka was lucky as compared to India as its coronavirus cases were clustered. About 40% of Sri Lanka's cases were from a navy facility. This allowed Sri Lanka to take a targeted approach to deal with the virus," he added.

However, the southern Indian state of Kerala has had a similar approach to the coronavirus pandemic as Sri Lanka. Kerala implemented a lockdown much before the rest of the country. The state, which had already dealt with a previous outbreak of another disease, effectively traced people with respiratory symptoms similar to those found in COVID-19 and isolated the infected patients.

 Challenges with migrant workers

Sri Lanka also faces the risk of a possible new wave of the virus from imported cases. The country has over a million migrant workers abroad, of whom about 60,000 want to return home, according to the International Labor Organization.

However, one of the conditions for repatriating citizens back to Sri Lanka is based on the availability of quarantine facilities, explained Pendse.

"The influx of people is being managed according to the accommodation available in existing quarantine facilities. There has been an increase in the capacity for quarantine from when the pandemic first began," she said. Currently all infected cases reported from migrant workers who come from abroad