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Novel coronavirus test now available in SL; measures underway to prevent outbreak – Dr Jasinghe

ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Medical Research Institute has developed a “polymerase chain reaction (PCR)” test to identify the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a Health Ministry official said.

Regionally, the test is only available in Sri Lanka and in Pune, India, so far, Health Services Director General Dr Anil Jasinghe told reporters today.

Meanwhile, measures are underway to prevent the spread of the disease in Sri Lanka, after the first confirmed case of a novel coronavirus infection in the island was reported last evening.

According to Dr Jasinghe, these measures include 24-hour surveillance and monitoring at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), with increased medical staff and Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) reporting for duty. The airport is also equipped with four thermal scanners that check every arriving passenger’s temperature, fever being one of the symptoms of the disease.

The Jaffna International Airport in Palali, as well as seaports around Sri Lanka’s coastal belt, is following strict preventative measures, said the official.

“There is a separate terminal at the BIA for passengers arriving from China to enter the country. Anyone who shows any symptoms we send directly to the IDH (Infectious Diseases Hospital, Colombo),” he said.

A written declaration is also obtained from every passenger with information on their travel itinerary including accommodation details.

“We have taken measures to provide the declaration forms in Mandarin for the Chinese nationals, in addition to informational videos to be played on flights,” said Dr Jasinghe.

As a precautionary measure, he further said, all health workers attending suspected carriers of the virus with personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from exposure to the disease.

“The PPEs cover a health worker’s entire body. The WHO (World Health Organisation) will provide more equipment and we will acquire another batch under emergency purchases this evening,” he added.

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The Health Services Director General also urged journalists to be responsible in their reporting in order to combat misinformation on social media which he said could cause a panic.

The following hotlines are available to the public for any information on the novel coronavirus: 071 0107107, 011 3071073. (Colombo/Jan28/2020)

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