ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded its first COVID-19 death yesterday as the country remained under curfew overnight and a restriction remained imposed on foreign arrivals.
The ban on arrivals was extended till April 07 by the island’s Civil Aviation Authority to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We found a person in Akurana who had come from abroad,” General Shavendra Silva, who heads an anti-Covid task force told Sri Lanka’s Sirasa TV.
“Until we find the contacts we have blocked the town. We have also found a person in Puttalam who had been to Thailand.”
Indefinite curfew will continue in Colombo, Gampaha, Kaluthra Puttalam, Jaffna and Kandy, the President’s media office said.
Inter-district travel is banned except for essential services.
Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry said the total confirmed cases rose to 115 while 199 were under observation at designated hospitals around the country.
Sri Lanka has discharged nine patients from hospital including a Wave I patient from China.
The patient who died had a history of high blood pressure and blood sugar, the head of Sri Lanka’s Health Service Anil Jasinghe said.
Coronavirus patients have to be cremated or buried in a grave 8 feet deep, under supervision of the Judicial Medical Officer of the area, Medical Officer of Health and police, Jasinghe told Derana, a privately run television station.
The remains have to be sealed in a body bag, he said.
Two members of the family would be allowed to view the body, he said.
Permit Raj, Price controls bite
Sri Lanka intensified state controls on food distribution on Friday and Saturday with a price control agency disrupting activities, reports said while private pharmacies were banned from selling drugs directly to customers.
Activities at several economic centres were at a low ebb on Sunday, television reports said.
Sri Lanka had started a permit system and the Consumer Affairs Authority, a price control agency that has become an obstacle to economic activities in ordinary times had also disrupted economic activities Friday with price controls.
Colombo’s Manning market saw a high level of demand on Friday with new buyers and sellers coming in, until the CAA slapped price controls, and officials were seen berating traders on national television.
On Sunday to reduce demand and keep prices down outsiders had been reduced, a reporter said on Derana TV.
The CAA had earlier generated a tinned fish shortage by slapping a price control in a country that was already hit by the coronavirus crisis.
Any entrepreneur who suffers losses due to state price controls would want to do business another day.
In another state oriented move, only state pharmacies were allowed to sell drugs directly to consumers.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called on restrictions to be relaxed on Saturday but did not directly abandon attempt to centralise control or distribution.
A wide gap exists between Sri Lanka’s economic policies including monetary policy and the health department, public health officers, military and health officers, who have been contact chasing.
Airport closure extended
Sri Lanka said it has extended a ban on arriving passengers by one week to April 07 from March 31, the island’s Civil Aviation Authority said, but aircraft would still be able fly in with cargo, transit passengers and fly out with outbound passengers.
“… [A]ll international Airports in Sri Lanka will continue to be closed for the operation of inbound international commercial passenger flights (i.e. arrivals) until 2359hrs on 7 April 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka),” the CAA said in a notice to all airlines.
“This closure will be reviewed by the Sri Lanka Authorities.”
During the period aircraft departures with passengers originating from Colombo, stopovers, transit passengers or visiting tourists, Emergency Diversions to BIA, Freighter Operations and humanitarian flights, Technical landings and Inbound ferry flights (without passengers).
SriLankan Airlines, Oman Air and Qatar are flying daily to Sri Lanka as is Aeroflot.
Cathay Pacific is flying cargo to and from the country. SriLankan Airlines is also flying cargo only flights bringing in vital supplies.
Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Ashok Pathirage said 95 percent of the fleet was grounded.
Sri Lanka’s military said 1,488 have been released after ending quarantine. In 46 centres, 2,074 including 22 foreigners are in quarantine, Army Chief Shavendra Silva told reporters in a daily recorded video released Saturday night.
Atalugama remains under lockdown, after a confirmed person was found who is believed to have made contact with 26 peopple.
The military has found 20 persons who were now in a quarantine centre, General Silva said. (Colombo/Mar29/2020)