An Echelon Media Company
Thursday April 18th, 2024

Extend lockdown to Oct 2 to save 10,000 lives at 2.2 pct GDP: experts convened by WHO Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – With nearly 90 percent of samples sequenced confirmed to be the deadly delta variant, extending Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 lockdown to September 18 and October 2 will save 7,500 and 10,000 lives respectively at an economic cost of 1.9 percent and 2.2 percent of GDP, an expert report said.

Drawing from a projection model by the Monash University in Australia, an independent group of experts convened by World Health Organisation (WHO) Sri Lanka on the island nation’s COVID-19 situation highlighted an urgent need to extend stringency measures with strong enforcement and household compliance.

Sri Lanka did extend the ongoing quarantine curfew on Friday (27) but only until September 6.

Related: Sri Lanka extends COVID-19 lockdown to September 6

The impact on the economy if the lockdown is continued to those two dates will be 1.67 billion US dollars (1.9 percent of GDP) and 2.2 billion US dollars (2.5 percent of GDP), the experts said in a report published Thursday (26).

“The current classification of Sri Lanka is “red” which adversely affects tourism. ‘Green’ status (UK) requires daily cases less than 950 and test positivity rate less than 2.5%. Extending the stringency measures would reverse the current trajectory and move Sri Lanka towards ‘amber’ and achieving ‘green’ status by the end of the year,” the experts said.

“Overall, global and local evidence indicates that economies bounce back quickly once stringencies are removed,” they added.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a televised address to the nation last Friday (20) evening asked the citizenry to be prepared to “make more sacrifices” in the event of an extended lockdown. The island nation’s ailing economy is facing an unprecedented crisis in the form a double whammy of disease and a crippling shortage of foreign exchange.

Related: More sacrifices ahead if lockdown drags, cautions Sri Lanka president

The group of experts included Prof Malik Peiris, Chair/Professor of the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, and Prof Neelika Malavige, Head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

The same group, again convened by WHO Sri Lanka, had said previously on August 13 that 18,000 lives could be saved by January 2022 if the government were to impose a lockdown – a call that the authorities had seemingly turned a deaf ear to until last Friday (20) when it finally went for a 10-day lockdown.

Related: Act now to save 18,000 lives, experts convened by WHO Sri Lanka urge

This week’s report said the virus is now spreading within households and hospitals are at full capacity with health workers also getting infected as supplies including oxygen run critically low.

“The health system would have some time to recover from extreme pressure including shortage of beds and critical supplies like oxygen,” they said.

The group called for “enforcement of stringent measures with compliance of the public to reinforce accelerated vaccination” and a “social support system for vulnerable population”.

Sri Lanka confirmed a record 209 COVID-19 deaths for Wednesday (25), the first time daily deaths attributed to the disease have passed 200, taking the island nation’s death toll from the epidemic to 8,157.

The government information department also confirmed 4,602 new infections for Thursday (26), bringing total cases in Sri Lanka to 412,370.

Of the death toll, 7,548 occurred in the four months since April 15 when the ongoing third wave of the epidemic officially began. Since August 21, in just six days, 1,172 deaths have been confirmed.

Weekly COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka have increased by 40 percent this week, making the island nation one of three exceptions in the South East Asian region which has showed a 16 percent decrease overall, according to another WHO report.

Related: Weekly COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka increase by 40 percent, says WHO

Noting that Sri Lanka is among countries with the highest COVID-19 death rates (at 11th place, with 5.52 deaths per 100,000 population), the group said in their August 26 report that maintaining stringency to reduce transmission, caseload and deaths will enable quicker economic recovery.

The experts also called for completion of Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout in the face of the rapidly spreading delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Over 12.2 million Sri Lankans have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far, a little over half of whom are fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 percent of the over-30 population have received one dose, while about 53 percent have received both shots.

In order to save lives, the experts stressed the need for key adjustments in service delivery to care for cases, and an effective triage system supported by health professionals.

“Optimise the home management protocols and monitoring of hypoxia, and accelerate vaccination and target the vulnerable to be given the most effective vaccines,” they added.

Apart from extending strict social measures, the experts remmended “household and individual compliance” which they said will be crucial.

“Reduce mobility by better targeting the measures that should be tightened using mobility data from Google Maps, mobile phone data and Facebook data to identify the most important measures,” they added, though they were not clear on how this might be implemented.

Ethical considerations were also not touched on.

“Plan in advance for a systematic re-opening of sectors, regions, return of employment categories,” the group added.

With regard to the more vulnerable sections of society, the group recommended strengthening the social support system by engaging with temples and religious groups, NGOs, civil society etc ina “national mobilisation effort” to overcome needs of the lower income groups.

This should be led by the government and supported by development partners as needed, they added. (Colombo/Aug27/2021)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka’s discussions with bondholders constructive: State finance minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan authorities continue to engage all debt restructuring negotiations in good faith, within principles of equitable treatment among creditors, and with maximum transparency within the norms of such negotiations, State Minister of Finance, Shehan Semasinghe has said.

“It is standard practice, when a representative group of bondholders is formed, to entertain confidential discussions with such group and its appointed advisors. In the case of Sri Lanka, the Ad Hoc Group of Bondholders represents holders controlling more than 50% of the bonds, which make them a privileged interlocutor for Sri Lanka,” Semasinghe said on X (twitter).

“It is well understood that given the price sensitive nature of the negotiations, and according to market regulations, discussions with the Group and its advisors are to be conducted under non-disclosure agreements. This evidently restricts the ability of the Government to unilaterally report about the substance of the discussions.

“The cleansing statement, which was issued on the 16th of April, at the conclusion of this first round of confidential discussions with members of the Group, aims at informing the Sri Lankan people, market participants and other stakeholders to this debt restructuring exercise, about the progress in negotiations. It provides the highest possible level of transparency within the internationally accepted practices in such circumstances.

“As informed in this statement, confidential discussions held in recent weeks with bondholders’ representatives proved constructive, building on the restructuring proposals presented by both parties. During the talks both sides successfully bridged a number of technical issues enabling important progress to be made. Sri Lanka articulated key remaining concerns that need to be addressed in a satisfactory manner.

“The next steps would entail further consultation with the IMF staff regarding assessments of the compatibility of the latest proposals with program parameters. Following these consultations, we hope to continue discussions with the bondholders with a view to reaching common ground ahead of the IMF board consideration of the second review of Sri Lanka’s EFF program.”

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka rupee weakens at 301.00/302.05 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 301.00/302.05 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Tuesday, from 299.00/10 on Tuesday, dealers said. Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed stable at 11.30/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent up from 11.95/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed at 12.10/20 percent down from 12.10/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2031 closed at 12.30/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr17/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka Treasury Bill yields down across maturities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Treasuries yields were down across maturities at Wednesday’s auction with the 3-month yield moving down 7 basis points to 10.03 percent, data from the state debt office showed.

The debt office sold all 30 billion rupees of 3-month bills offered.

The 6-month yield fell 5 basis points to 10.22 percent, with 25 billion rupees of bills offered and 29.98 billion rupees sold.

The 12-month yield dropped 4 basis points to 10.23 percent with 18.01 billion rupees of bills sold after offering 23 billion rupees. (Colombo/Apr17/2024)

Continue Reading