ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka extended a work from home period to April 03, and has slapped indefinite Coronavirus curfews on three districts with authorities making a final effort to stop any remaining unidentified carriers infecting others.
The work from home period from March 30 to April 03 will apply to all State, semi-government and private sector entities except which are categorized as essential services.
“This period is not considered as public holidays. Uninterrupted continuation of public services is the responsibility of the Government,” the Presidents office said.
“However, the objective of this measure is to prevent unnecessary gathering of people and pave the way for self-quarantine.”
Since the Wave II surge of the epidemic began with infected returnees from countries other than China in March daily growth of confirmed patients had been in the single or low double digits.
On March 26, the health ministry had confirmed four new cases by 2100 hours taking the total to 106. Another 237 suspected patients are under observation.
Four Coronavirus patients have recovered so far, including a Wave I patient from China who was originally infected with the Wuhan virus in January 2020.
There have been no deaths but two are in intensive care, the head of Sri Lanka’s health service Anil Jasinghe has said.
Sri Lanka has slapped indefinite curfews in Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, calling them high risk areas, while a curfew was also extended in Jaffna where an infected Swiss pastor conducted a service.
Out of patients indentified up to late afternoon Thursday Colombo had recorded 22, Kalutara, 15, Gampaha 10 and Puttalam 09, Jasinghe said, prompting the areas to be designated high risk.
Health Workers Discriminated
“Today four people recovered from Coronavirus and left for home quarantine,” Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said in a daily recorded statement.
“That is something to be happy about. The health workers, the nurses, doctors and minor workers deserve the honour of the nation, along with the service personnel and the army commander.
“However we have heard that when they go home they face some discrimination in society”
They are a great strengthen to the people; they need the honor of the people.
Wanniarachchi said Suwaseriya paramedic ambulance workers also performing a great service to the nation.
“They are bringing in Coronavirus patients, going to houses not caring whether people have Coronavirus or not,” she said.
Jasinghe said some health workers have been asked to leave their residences.
“They are not infected persons, they know how to protect themselves,” Jasinghe said.
Jasinghe had also sought police support to protect persons who are not wearing masks in public. Members have been asked to stay away from each other maintaining at least a meter distance (Britain’s National Health Service is advising 2 meters) a the key preventive measure and washing hands frequently.
Wearing surgical masks incorrectly, moving them around with hands will transfer germs to the hands to the mouth and nose, health experts have said. If there is active community transmission, the government would ask people to wear masks.
“Even some officials who do not know the correct position has been creating problems for the members of the public who do not wear masks,” Jasinghe said.
“This is also the advice of the World Health Organization. The Lancet journal has also yesterday published a piece with a similar view.”
Jasinghe also asked the public not to ask for curfew passes especially to visit relatives.
Medicine Distribution – Correct address needed
With ongoing curfews patients who visit hospitals for monthly clinics cannot get their medicine.
“We have discussed with the Postal Service and medicines will be put in packets and distributed by post. For that we need the correct address and telephone number.
“So we are asking clinic patients to call the hospitals and update their addresses and telephone numbers if wrong one has been given.
He said a meeting had been held with a pharmacy association and the pharma chamber to develop a mechanism for private patients who buy regularly from pharmacies.
“There may be problems at first, but we will observe and fix them,” Jasinghe said.
“We are doing all this so that people will maintain their distance.”
Army Chief Shavendra Silva said 223 person who had been quarantined at Punani and Kandakadu centres had been released on March 26.
“They have been asked to home quarantine for 14 days. Up to now 678 persons have left quarantine.
He said 2,866 were in quarantine and another 443 will leave on Friday.
The head of Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau Paba Palihawadana said they were asked to home quarantine because the virus was new and also visitors tended to come home to see them.
“If a lot of people come home to see them, they can get re-infected,” she said.
Senior advisor to the Finance Minister Nivard Cabraal has called for a strategy to get the economies working after Covid-19 ends.
“The Sri Lankan economy would also have to be re-shaped and restructured to deal with the new global economic order and the challenges that would unfold,” Cabraal said.
Information Minister Bandula Gunewardene had said that Sri Lanka’s traders had imported extra food from India in March to cope with high demand in the April New Year season and there were extra stocks of food.
Health Minister Wanniarachchi said beneficiaries of Samurdhi income supplements will get a 10,000 rupee credit.
However day labourers earners who have been working hard and not depending on tax payer handouts have been badly hit with no income.
Television reports said Sri Lanka’s price controllers have disrupted the work of Dambulla economic trading centre, which works on commission like a stock excahne claiming that traders were pushing up prices.
Angry market participants were interviewed on TV saying prices were pushed down by force to 80 rupees a kilogram depriving farmers of incomes but the same goods were retailed at high prices elsewhere.
The Consumer Affairs Authority also caused a nation-wide shortage of tinned fish, by slapping a 100 rupee price control.
Tinned fish prices are artificially kept up in Sri Lanka with import duties to benefit a handful of politically connected rent seeking domestic producers, critics have said. (Colombo/Mar27/2020)