Returning students from Wuhan to be quarantined in Diyathalawa camp

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan students returning from Wuhan, China, will be quarantined in the Diyathalawa Army camp for a two-week period to prevent a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarchchi said.

As the country lacks the facilities to quarantine all arrivals from China, those currently in Sri Lanka will be examined by Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in their respective locations across the island, the Minister told reporters today.

There over 9,000 Chinese nationals currently living in Sri Lanka, most of whom are employed here on work permits. China is also the third largest source of tourism in the country. According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Chinese tourists made up 9% of all tourist arrivals in 2019, with over 16,000 in December alone.

“Whether it is Sri Lankan students or Chinese tourists or workers, there’s a large number of people coming in from China. There are practical difficulties in keeping such a large group quarantined in a hotel or hospital in a country like ours,” Wanniarachchi said.

The Health Minister was responding to criticism that university students who had arrived from China yesterday were sent home to their families after a preliminary check, despite the novel coronavirus’s 14-day incubation period.

She reiterated, however, that any students returning from Wuhan, where the virus had reportedly originated, will be quarantined in Diyathawala in individual hospital rooms with round-the-clock monitoring.

The first confirmed case of a novel coronavirus infection in Sri Lanka was reported last evening.

According to Health Services Director General Dr Anil Jasinghe, the patient’s condition is “not critical”, but he declined to guarantee that she’s out of danger.

“She is generally all right. It’s a moderate illness [in her case]. I can’t give a guarantee, but she’s in safe hands and is being given all necessary treatments and antibiotic cover,” he said. (Colombo/Jan27/2020)

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