ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to start sample testing of the population to check Coronavirus community transmission, health chief Anil Jasinghe said as confirmed Covid-19 cases rose to 122 and the country recorded the second death.
“We have so far only tested person in isolation units in hospitals,” Jasinghe told reporters. “We want to check whether there is to some extent this disease in the community.
“Even though we don’t we need to confirms that. So in the future, we will do sample testing.
“To decide how to do this, and which units should do this and their capacity we had a video conference with the unit around the country.
South Korea and Vietnam, which have been aggressively chasing contacts, have done thousands of persons using test kits, produced within the country.
Jasinghe said authorities are tracking 2,210 contacts of confirmed cases most of whom were Wave II arrivals from abroad or their family members.
But other people are now turning up.
Authorities are urging people to stay at home and maintain distance of at least a meter. Britain’s National Health Service is advocating two metres.
People older than 60 years are also are being told to stay away from younger persons and people who go marketing or have contacts with outsiders. Old people are being advised not to go shopping.
By 1530h March 31, 1900h, Sri Lanka had confirmed 129 cases, while the total under observation in hospitals fell to 104 from 117 a day earlier.
On Monday concerns grew as a person who was admitted to Negombo hospital died and he was confirmed to have Coronavirus.
The person had been in a private hospital and had also taken treatment from a private doctor before coming to Negombo hospital, raising fears of exposure. The patient had a history of heart and lung problems, authorities said.
O how he contracted the disease.
Several family members also showed symptoms a Government Medical Officers Association Representative said.
The patient was cremated according to WHO guidelines late night Monday, Sri Lanka’s Derana TV reported.
Sri Lanka is also urging everyone who entered the country from March 16 from abroad to register with police.
Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said on in the Chilaw district five family members had contracted Coronavirus, including a four month old infant.
“What I can tell persons who came before 14 days is that even if you are self-quarantined at home, to stay away from family member. Especially older relations.”
Sri Lanka is ahead of many countries in chasing contacts, but the curfews, price controls as well as money printing are generating economic instability.
A state monopoly in drug sales has reduced supply to sick people.
The health service however is activating the postal system to deliver drugs to clinic patients in state hospitals.
There is a yawning gap between Sri Lanka’s military and health service which has been diligently chasing contacts and getting ready to treat patients with limited resources, and economic policy, critics say.
The Consumer Affairs Authority had slammed price controls on tinned fish and dhall, popular foods of the less affluent creating shortages in many days. It also slapped price controls on vegetables and traders complained that buying price of some vegetable in places like Nuwara Eliya were higher than the controlled price in Colombo.
If a trader who hires a truck makes a loss in Colombo after buying goods at high prices in Dambulla or Nuwara Eliya he will not turn up the next day, not least because he has made losses and part of his working capital had been expropriated by the price control agency, economic analysts say.
Meanwhile central bank has printed large volumes of money in so-called helicopter drop style moves and cut rates, as if the central bank had a free floating exchange rate, despite early warnings not to generate monetary instability as in the past in a misguided ‘stimulus, imitating the Western Keynesianism.
In January value added taxes were cut in another misguided Keynesian stimulus, despite having a weak debt profile, spooking rating agencies and foreign investors, instead of waiting for the cyclical recovery to boost the economy strongly as happened after the 2001 and 2008 crises.
The credibility of Sri Lanka’s rupee soft-peg had been lost and the country has country has lost the opportunity to benefit from US monetary loosening to raise debt, and re-finance debt at low rates as countries which run more prudent pegs without targeting overnight rates with excess liquidity are able to do, analysts say.
Once the credibility of the peg has been lost, it is extremely difficult to restore it, without steep currency falls, rate hikes which could have been avoided, and stagflation as was seen in the recent past and after previous collapses of the peg.
Analysts have also pointed out that when liquidity injections are made, triggering ‘foreign exchange shortages’ rating agencies tend to downgrade. Another 50 billion rupee central bank re-financed fund is to be given to banks instead of a fiscal fund.
Sri Lanka however has not cut oil prices in perhaps the only prudent economic move seen in recent months.
Sri Lanka remains under curfew which will be lifted for most areas on Wednesday at 0600 am. Athaluagama in Bandaragama and Akurana, which is in between Kandy and Matale is in lockdown.
But indefinite curfew remains in Colombo, Gampaha, Kaluthara, Jaffna and Puttalam. (Colombo/Mar31/2020)