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COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka

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COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka
DiseaseCOVID-19 (coronavirus)
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationTemplate:Flag icon Sri Lanka
First caseColombo
Date27 January 2020 – ongoing
(1 year, 1 month and 5 days)
OriginWuhan, Hubei, China
Confirmed cases1,857[1][2]
Recovered990[1]
Deaths
11[1]
Official website
epid.gov.lk
https://hpb.health.gov.lk/

The COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case of the virus was confirmed in Sri Lanka on 27 January 2020, after a 44-year-old Chinese woman from Hubei Province in China was admitted to the National Institute of Infection Diseases.[3]

As of 5 June 2020, 1,797 confirmed cases have been reported in the country with 11 deaths.[4] On 3 March 2020, the first reported case involving a Sri Lankan origin outside Sri Lanka was reported in Italy. As of 23 March, forty-five quarantine centers have been built in the country by the Sri Lanka Army as a preventive measure to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.[5] Nearly 3,500 people have been under quarantine in 45 quarantine centers which also include 31 foreigners from 14 countries.[6]

As of 25 March 2020, Sri Lankan authorities have tracked down over 14,000 people who had contacted the identified patients and had ordered self-quarantine for such people.[7]

As of 16 April 2020, Sri Lanka has been named as 16th high risk country prone to virus pandemic.[8] Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has been ranked 9th best country in the world for its successful immediate response on tackling the virus.[9]

Sri Lankan government announced that it will lift the curfew on 11 May which was in effect for over two months which brings an end to 52 day lockdown style curfew and meaning that public can start going to workplace by maintaining social distancing but the public gatherings, festivals and celebrations are banned.[10][11] Sri Lankan government also approved the permission to open salons, beauty parlours and barber shops on 11 May but has strictly banned shaving.[12][13][14] The government urged the barbers to maintain precautionary health measures while cutting hair.[15] Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/Sri Lanka medical cases chart

Background[edit source | edit]

On 12 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, who had initially come to the attention of the WHO on 31 December 2019.[16][17]

Unlike SARS of 2003, the case fatality ratio for COVID-19 [18][19] has been much lower, but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.[20][18]

Quarantine Law in Sri Lanka is governed by the Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance No 3 of 1897 and has 12 sections.[21]

Timeline[edit source | edit]

27 January – 9 March 2020[edit source | edit]

Prior to 27 January, the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka had instructed the Quarantine Unit at Bandaranaike International Airport to screen passengers for symptoms. Additionally, the ministry warned that infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who suffer from chronic diseases among other issues should avoid visiting crowded places when possible.[22] A 22-member National Action Committee has been set up by the ministry to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Sri Lanka.[23] The Department of Immigration and Emigration also informed all construction sites with Chinese resident visa holders to restrict their Chinese employees to their respective workplaces and lodgings.[24]

On 27 January, the first confirmed case of the virus was reported in Sri Lanka, a 44-year-old Chinese woman from Hubei Province in China; she was admitted to the National Institute of Infection Diseases.[3] She had arrived as a tourist with another group of travelers and had been screened at the Bandaranaike International Airport after having a high fever. She had fully recovered and was released from the hospital on 19 February.[25]

Following the first reported case of coronavirus in Sri Lanka on 27 January, demand for face masks in the country soared and the country began to face a mask shortage.[26] Some pharmacies in the country had sold all face masks and there were reports from customers that face masks were being sold at over ten to twenty times the original price.[26] As a result, the country's drug regulatory agency placed price controls on face masks.[26][needs update]33 Sri Lankan students and families were evacuated from Wuhan on 1 February and kept under Quarantine at a Military facility at Diyatalawa.[27] They were released after two weeks quarantine period on 14 February.[28]

Since the first week of March, passengers coming from Italy, Iran, or South Korea have been required to be quarantined for two weeks at one of two facilities. On 10 March, 186 people (164 Sri Lankan nationals, 20 Italian nationals, and 2 South Korean nationals) were placed under quarantine in Batticaloa.[29] On 10 March 2020, 2 Sri Lankan origins living in the United Arab Emirates reported with coronavirus cases were identified.[citation needed]

10–23 March 2020[edit source | edit]

On 10 March, the first Sri Lankan local national tested positive for COVID-19.[30] A 52-year-old tour guide working with a group of Italians had tested positive. He is under treatment in Infectious Disease Hospital, Angoda.[31] Twenty-nine patients were under observation in government hospitals, including eight foreigners.[32] Following the new developments, the country suspended on arrival visa for tourists on 11 March [33][34]

On 12 March, another Sri Lankan person confirmed positive for COVID-19.[35] A 44 years old person, who had reportedly stayed with the first Sri Lankan patient diagnosed with the virus who is currently admitted at Infectious Disease Hospital, Angoda, has also now tested positive for coronavirus.[36]

On 13 March, three more confirmed Coronavirus patients identified in Sri Lanka. One of these patients is a 41-year-old Sri Lankan male who had arrived from Germany. He has been admitted to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Angoda. The other two patients are from the group of people who had been quarantined at the facility in Kandakadu. One of them is a 37-year-old who had arrived from Italy and was placed under quarantine at Kandakadu upon arriving in the country. He is currently being treated at the Polonnaruwa Hospital, Polonnaruwa. The other is a 43-year-old male who had also arrived from Italy. He is being treated at Infectious Disease Hospital, Angoda.[37]

On 14 March, five more confirmed coronavirus patients were identified in Sri Lanka. One of the patients is a 44-year-old who was quarantined in the Kandakadu quarantine camp and is now being treated at the Polonnaruwa General Hospital. Another patient is 43-year-old from the Nattandiya area and is being treated at the Kurunegala General Hospital. The other patient is a 42-year-old male who was also quarantined in the Kandakadu quarantine camp and is now being treated at the Polonnaruwa General Hospital. All three of these patients have returned to Sri Lanka from Italy recently.[38] Another two more confirmed coronavirus patients were identified in Sri Lanka. While one of them is a 56-year-old female who returned from Italy, the other patient is a 17-year-old girl who is a relative of an already confirmed COVID-19 case. It was also reported that one of the co-pilots of the Sri Lankan Airlines who was infected with the coronavirus attended the annual Royal–Thomian Big Match between S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia and the Royal College, Colombo which held from 12 March to 14 March.[39]

On 15 March, 7 more new confirmed cases were reported taking the overall tally to 18 and the surge of new cases cautioned government to declare 16 March a public holiday but later it extended the holiday until Thursday, 19 March.[40] On 16 March, 10 more cases were reported, taking the tally to 28.[41][42] On 17 March, another 15 more cases were reported taking the tally to 43.[43] On 17 March, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Kamal Gunaratne revealed that around 170 passengers who returned from Italy and South Korea had neglected the quarantine procedure.[44]

On 18 March, second patient was identified to be fully recovered from the infection and on the same day another seven cases was reported taking the tally to 50.[45] On 19 March, nine more cases were identified taking the tally to 59. One of the patients a man from Ja-Ela admitted himself to the Ragama Hospital for chest pains and continuously lied about his travel history. After the tests were done the patient came positive for COVID-19. The patient was removed to the isolated ward but not before exposing staff, patients and others to the virus. As a result, the entire hospital ward had to be closed down and the staff were quarantined.[46][47][48] On 20 March, eleven more cases were reported taking the tally to 70. Most of the confirmed cases are reported from Gampaha district with 18, 17 from Colombo and 12 from Puttalam.[49] On 21 March, six more cases were confirmed taking the tally to 77.[50] An Army officer who was engaged in escorting Sri Lankans to quarantine centers also contracted with Coronavirus.[50]

On 22 March, the first confirmed coronavirus case was reported in Jaffna and the patient is believed to have maintained close relationships with the senior pastor who was tested positive for COVID-19.[51] Five more cases were reported on 22 March taking the tally to 82.[52] On 23 March, five more cases were reported taking the tally to 87.[53] On 23 March, country's first locally identified person infected with the coronavirus has been discharged from the hospital after showing improvement during recovery.[54]

24 March 2020 – 3 April 2020[edit source | edit]

On 24 March, assistant of the church pastor was reported to have been tested positive for COVID-19.[55] A father-son duo who attended the Friday Jummah prayers on 20 March at the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque which is also known as the Red Mosque have also been tested positive for COVID-19. Six more cases were reported on 25 March taking the tally to 106. However, no new confirmed cases were reported in the country on 26 March and 27 March according to the Army General Shavendra Silva.[56]

On 26 March, a recent returnee from abroad who is a resident of Atalugama in Bandaragama contracted COVID-19. He has associated with 26 persons of the village.[57] Therefore, the village declared lockdown and 20 persons will be quarantined for 14 days. On the next day, father and sister of the Atalugama corona patient also hospitalised after displayed COVID-19 symptoms. They were admitted to the Kalutara Nagoda Hospital.[58] On 28 March, first corona patient was identified from Akurana, Kandy district. A person recently had come from Chennai, India diagnosed with COVID-19.[59] With the diagnosis, Akurana was immediately declared lockdown by the government. Currently, three villages have been sealed off; Bandaragama-Atalugama, Kandy-Akurana and Puttalam-Kadayamkulam.[60]

On 27 March, the first Sri Lankan national died from COVID-19, who lived in Switzerland. Sathasivam Loganathan, a 59-year-old Tamil from Punkuduthivu, Jaffna lived with his family in Switzerland.[61] On 29 March, two more Sri Lankan nationals died from COVID-19 resided in England. Henry Jayawardena (aged 70), a retired doctor, and Lakshan Wijeratne (aged 55), both were treated in ICU, UK.[62]

On 28 March, first Coronavirus patient had died in Sri Lanka.[63] A 60-year-old patient, from Marawila, who also had a kidney transplant and had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure.[64] The body was cremated within 15 hours. On 30 March, second death from COVID-19, a 60-year-old man from Negambo was recorded.[65] Five more cases were reported including a four-month-old baby on 30 March increasing the total up to 122.[66]

On 30 March five villages in Beruwala with a total population over 100 were quarantined after an airport driver who was infected by the virus intentionally hid his status and went into hiding till neighbors complained to the police.[67]

On 31 March, 21 more patients confirmed COVID-19, which is currently the highest single-day increase. Most of them were relatives of previously confirmed Corona patients. The total patients rises to 142. On 1 April, five patients from Kurunegala, Jaffna and Maradana confirmed COVID-19 increasing total up to 147. On the same day, four patients recovered from the disease by increasing recovered total into 21. Further 173 more people are under observation at National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH).[68][69] Later in the night, a 72-year-old COVID-19 infected patient died at the IDH, Angoda increasing death toll into 3. He was a resident of the Maradana.[70][71]

On 2 April, three more COVID-19 cases reported positive increasing total into 151. Later in the night, 58-year-old patient at IDH died from COVID-19 complications by increasing death toll to 4.[72] On 3 April, 8 more COVID-19 patients identified and total increased up to 159.[citation needed]

4 April 2020 – 15 April 2020[edit source | edit]

On 4 April, Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe confirmed the death of a fifth patient with the COVID-19. A 44 years old male arrived from Italy who was treated at the Welikanda Hospital in Polonnaruwa died from the complications of COVID-19, even though he had no other ailments. The body was cremated in the afternoon.[73][74] On the same day, seven more patients confirmed COVID-19 and tally rises to 162 with 25 discharged persons.[75] One of the infected woman from Beruwala was pregnant and she gave birth without complications. However, she entered the maternity clinic of the hospital with no symptoms and false address.[76]

On 4 April, Anton Sebastianpillai, a renowned Sri Lankan born British geriatrician and author lived in England died after testing positive for COVID-19.[77]

On 5 April, 10 COVID-19 cases reported and on next day, 2 more cases were reported by increasing patients up to 178.[78][79] On 7 April, a 80-year-old male from Dehiwala died as the sixth person from COVID-19.[80] On the same day, 7 more patients confirmed the disease and total increased up to 185. On 8 April, four patients confirmed COVID-19 by increasing total up to 189.[81] On the same day, seventh death was recorded, a 48-year-old male from Ratnapura, who was a gem businessman returned after a tour to Germany.[82] On 9 April, one COVID-19 patient and on 10 April, seven patients identified by increasing total to 197.[83]

On 11 April, 2 patients recorded where total number passed 201. Then it increased further with 11 more cases on 12 April.[84] On 13 April, eight COVID-19 cases were reported and total increased up to 218 with 147 active cases.[85] On 14 April coinciding with Sinhala and Tamil new year, 15 cases of COVID-19 positive patients reported to increase the total to 233.[86][87] On 15 April, 5 cases were reported and total rise up to 238.[citation needed]

17 April 2020 – 30 April 2020[edit source | edit]

On 17 April, 7 cases were reported.[88] On 18 April, 10 cases were reported and on 19 April, 17 cases were reported from Keselwatte, Colombo. The total increased up to 271 with 91 recovered cases.[89][90]

On 20 April, 33 persons from Colombo confirmed COVID-19 by increasing total up to 303.[91] This was the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day recorded from Sri Lanka until 26 April.[92] On 21 April, 6 persons confirmed COVID-19. On 22 April, a new case from Polonnaruwa district, a Navy sailor attached to the Welisara Navy Camp tested positive for COVID-19 as well as 19 more cases on the same day.[93] On 23 April, 38 persons confirmed COVID-19 by increasing total to 368. Out of 38 positive cases, 30 were from sailors from Welisara Navy camp involved in moving into quarantine the group of people who tested positive for the coronavirus from the Suduwella area in Ja-Ela.[94] On 24 April, 52 persons confirmed COVID-19 by increasing total up to 420. This is the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day.[95][96] The 415th positive patient was a pregnant lady at the De Soysa Hospital, Colombo 8. However, she suffered a miscarriage during parturition.[97] Over 60 navy personals were tested positive in 2 days. These officers have been in duty on Ja-Ela when they were exposed.[98]

On 25 April, 40 persons tested positive for COVID-19.[99] On 26 April, 62 confirmed cases were reported, including most cases from Navy Base.[100] On 27 April, 65 positive cases were identified where the total increases up to 588. It took only 2 days to record COVID-19 patients from 400 to 500.[101][102] On 28 April, 31 more patients identified as COVID-19 cases. The total rises up to 619.[103] On 29 April, 30 cases were reported and total increases to 649.[104] On 30 April, 16 cases identified.[105]

On 30 April, British government announced that, brother of popular veteran actress Malini Fonseka has died from COVID-19 complication. Upali Fonseka, brother of Malini and father of popular actress Senali Fonseka died at the age of 68 who worked in England.[106]

1 May 2020 – 21 May 2020[edit source | edit]

On May Day, 25 cases were identified.[107] On 2 May, 700th COVID-19 patient was identified with 14 more patients.[108] The total increases up to 705 with 182 recovered cases.[109] On 3 May, 13 COVID-19 cases were reported.[110] On 4 May, Sri Lanka reported 8th COVID-19 death and first female death while receiving treatment at the Homagama Hospital, a 72 old woman from Polpithigama in Kurunegala who suffered from kidney ailments for long time.[111] Meanwhile, 37 persons tested positive on the day.[112]

On 5 May, another woman died from COVID-19 complications, becoming the 9th death victim. She was 52-year-old from Modara, Colombo.[113] She was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital on 4th due to an illness.[114] On 5 May, 16 patients confirmed the virus and total rises to 771.[115] On 6 May, 29 COVID-19 cases were identified, mostly from Sri Lanka Navy personnel and the total reache to 797.[116]

On Vesak poya day on 7 May, 800th COVID-19 patient was recorded including 27 patients.[117][118] On 8 May, 11 patients were identified and then 12 patients on 9 May increases total up to 847.[119][120][121] One of the passengers aboard the aircraft that returned, from Dubai on Thursday morning tested positive and was thereafter admitted to the Negombo General Hospital.[122] On 10 May, 16 COVID-19 patients were identified, in which 13 are from Sri Lanka Navy, one from navy relative and two from passengers returned from Dubai.[123]

On 11 May, only 6 people tested positive.[124] However, on 12 May, 20 people were identified with the disease where total increases up to 889.[125] On 13 May, the total exceeded 900 with 26 new COVID-19 cases.[126] On 14 May, 10 persons tested positive and total rises to 925.[127] On 15 May, 10 more cases were reported.[128] The total reaches 960 on 16 May with new cases from Navy camp and Quarantine centers.[129][130]

On 17 May, total rises to 981 with 21 confirmed cases.[131] On next day, it increases to 992 with 11 cases.[132] On 19 May, 35 people tested positive and total exceeded up to 1027.[133][134] On 20 May, only one COVID-19 patient was identified.[135] On 21 May, further 27 were tested positive and total increases to 1055.[136][137]

22 May 2020 – present[edit source | edit]

On 22 May, 13 cases tested positive and total becomes 1068.[138] The total increases to 1089 with 21 new patients identified where 19 of them were Sri Lanka Navy sailors, while the remainder were two Sri Lankans who returned from Dubai.[139] Until 24th May, Sri Lanka Army maintains 26 quarantine facilities, whereas, Sri Lanka Navy maintains 04 and Sri Lanka Air Force 03 quarantine centers island wide.[140]

On 24 May, 52 patients identified as positive cases and total increases to 1140.[141] On 25 May, further 41 COVID-19 cases were reported, all people returned from Kuwait.[142][143] On the same day, Dr. Anil Jasinghe confirmed Sri Lanka's 10th death due to COVID1-9, a 51-year-old woman, who returned from Kuwait and was undergoing quarantine in Trincomalee.[144] On 26 May, a record number of 137 people confirmed positive and total reached 1318.[145][146] The total rises to 1469 on next day, when 150 patients identified as COVID-19 positive.[147] On 28 May, 61 were tested positive and total is 1530.[148] On 29 May, 28 patients were identified to surpass the total to 1558.[149]

On 30 May, 62 were tested positive for COVID-19 and total rises to 1620.[150] On 31 May, 16 patients were identified,[151] whereas on 1 June, 10 patients were identified with 11th COVID-19 death, who was a 45 year old returnee from Kuwait.[152][153] Forty patients were identified on 2nd June[154] whereas further 66 were identified on 3rd June.[155] On 4 June, 48 were tested positive and total rises to 1797.[156]

Welisara Navy Camp cluster[edit source | edit]

After identifying COVID-19 positive patient from Polonnaruwa, who is a sailor from Welisara Navy camp, the camp was quarantined with immediate effect. Around 4000 people at the Navy Camp which include sailors and their families, were quarantined within the camp.[157] Many sailors were on leave when contracted the disease.[158] On 23 April, 30 sailors were tested positive which raised to 58 on the next day.[95][94] Due to the spread, all sailors were recalled to the camp and transferred to Colombo for further tests. Those that had associated the sailors are under self quarantine. On 24 April, camp was declared an isolated area.[159][160] As of 28 April, 148 sailors from within the Welisara Naval Complex, 45 sailors on leave, and another 13 others who were contacts of those who were infected were reported.[161] According to Director-General Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe on 28th April, Welisara cluster includes 209 total number of people with 148 inside the camp and 45 outside it on leave.[162]

Response[edit source | edit]

Sri Lankan government has requested the general public to practice proper hygiene methods and self quarantine methods to safeguard from the disease.[163]

On 14 March, the Sri Lankan government declared 16 March 2020, as a national public holiday to contain the coronavirus spreading in the country.[164][165][166]

On 15 March, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa proposed plans to combat coronavirus to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation leaders during a video press conference arranged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[167] Sri Lankan President directed the authorities to implement proper quarantine centers to examine the foreigners and ordered relevant authorities to provide necessary essential services to the general public via internet.[168]

On 16 March, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to extend the Public holiday to 1 week, and close all ports of entry to the country.[169] The government extended the public holidays to three days from 17 March to 19 March due to increase in new cases except for health, banking, food supply and transportation.[170][171]

On 17 March 2020, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka has not reached full-time quarantine level and criticized the comparisons regarding the country's situation with lockdown in Italy which was urged by Sri Lankan general public in the social media.[172] President also ordered the banking sector to not overburden the coronavirus hit business sector which are unable to repay the loan and ordered the banking sector to further extend the payback period to another six months.[173]

Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi revealed that around 24 hospitals are available ready to tackle the coronavirus emergency.[174]

On 19 March, the government decided to further extend the public holidays for 8 days from 20 March to 27 March to both private and public sectors as a remedy to confront the coronavirus pandemic. The government urged the public to work at home and declared a "work from home period" for those eight days.[175] The government is also planning to convert former Voice of America relay station into a COVID-19 treating hospital.[176]

On 21 March, the government strictly cautioned that younger children and older people shouldn't be allowed to purchase at the supermarket and urged only one person per family to visit the supermarket to avoid unnecessary gatherings. The government also urged the public to not utilize chloroquine which is used to treat the patients who are diagnosed with Malaria.[177]

On 23 March, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa introduced a relief fund called "COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund" to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.[178] The President himself contributed about Rs. 100 million from President Fund.[179] President also revealed that general public can delay the monthly electricity, water bills until 30 April.[citation needed]

The government has proposed plans to arrange home delivery of the essential goods to curb the coronavirus pandemic and also to control the crowd.[180] The decision was reached by the government following the panic buying and overcrowding of public in shopping outlets and supermarkets on 23 March after the removal of curfew temporarily.[181]

The government has also urged the main supermarkets of the country such as Cargills, Arpico Super Centre, Keells Super, Sathosa and LAUGFS Holdings to sell the products to the customers via home delivery methods. PickMe, one of the popular peer to peer transport networks in the country has offered services regarding the provision of essential items such as bread, gas, and grocery. PickMe has also partnered with Lanka Sathosa to provide essential products to customers via home delivery channels and also partnered with Litro Gas to provide gas cylinders.[182] Sri Lanka's main apparel manufacturer Brandix offered one of its factory as a quarantine center to assist government's fight against the coronavirus.[citation needed]

On 24 March, the government issued a circular stating that the special task force has been established to effectively and efficiently regulate and conduct the mechanism of distribution of essential commodities and the task force is spearheaded by Basil Rajapaksa.[183] The government also declared that Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara as the high-risk zones which are prone to the possibility of coronavirus pandemic.[184] The Police DIG Ajith Rohana warned that there could be a possibility of more undisclosed unconfirmed hidden coronavirus cases due to the reluctance of the carriers to come forward for testing and self-quarantine precautions.[185]

The government extended the work from home period until 3 April due to extension of indefinite curfews in high-risk zones of the country.[186] However, the government has taken necessary actions to resolve the issues faced by the general public and has allowed farmers, estate workers, bankers, fishermen and cleaners to carry on their duties amid curfews. President ordered the Central Bank, commercial banks, insurance companies to carry out the services amid the curfew.[187]

Some reports revealed that the President could arrange an emergency meeting at the parliament as soon as possible which was dissolved earlier in the month for the parliamentary elections.[188] Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa initially hosted an all party press conference to curb the pandemic.[189][190]

On 7 April Army, 1 Corps of Engineer Services (CES) turned the former Voice of America building complex at Iranawila, Chilaw to an isolation hospital. It is equipped with robotic technology and autopilot vehicles for the safety of medical staff working in the hospital and patients are confined to separate cubicles where robots transport medicine, drinks and foods to patients through a special airlock system.[191]

Politics[edit source | edit]

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned former UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's remarks over possibility of the shortage of funds after 30 April and criticized him for politicizing the current coronavirus pandemic.[192][193]

The ruling party also condemned the opposition party's request to reconvene the dissolved parliament and accused that the opposition party was trying to seek political gains.[194]

Disposal of bodies[edit source | edit]

According to the guidelines by the authorities, the bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients must be bagged and disinfected while the closest relatives are allowed to see the face of the deceased for a limited time within the hospital and touching of the body is not allowed. Embalming is banned and funeral homes are expected to immediately bag the body and place it in a sealed coffin for religious rituals. Mass gatherings and funeral functions are banned and remains must be cremated within 24 hours of the death. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem criticized the decision to make cremation mandatory claiming that cremation was done unlawfully without following either international rules or religious principles and further stated that cremation of a person should not be done without proper religious methods. Muslim community gave mixed responses some criticising Hakeem while others criticized the government decision[195][196] Some right activists and groups accused the government of not following WHO rules and regulations for the cremation related to COVID-19 deaths.[197]

It was reported that a letter from the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka was leaked to social media on April 25, 2020. The letter from the ministry had requested a 1000 body bags from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to dispose of bodies during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Ministry later announced that it will carry on an investigation to who leaked the letter to the media.[198]

Philadelphia Missionary Church[edit source | edit]

On 21 March 2020, the authorities urged all the people who attended the Sunday service at Philadelphia Missionary Church, Jaffna to self quarantine themselves for at least 14 days.[199] It was reported that on 15 March 2020, the main senior pastor of the church conducted special Sunday service.[200] It was later reported that the pastor was tested positive for COVID-19 and went to Switzerland on that day itself with his wife for medical treatment.[201][202][203] The person also believed to have infected with the virus after coming to Sri Lanka.[204] The Northern Province Governor P. S. M. Charles confirmed that the pastor with the coronavirus symptoms hugged and blessed all worshippers during the service. Around 240 people were reported to have attended the service according to the EconomyNext.[205] 3 of them are under medical treatment at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and all 240 people have been isolated.[citation needed]

Maligawatta stampede[edit source | edit]

On 21 May 2020, a stampede occurred near a Muslim Jumma residence in Maligawatta, Colombo-10, amid lockdown and curfew resulting in the death of 3 women and leaving further nine injured.[206][207][208] It was reported that the businessman did inform about this charity event and he was revealed to have taken the police pass before conducting such a charity event. However the reports revealed that the crowd gathered in huge unexpected numbers which resulted in a stampede.[209] Six suspects who were involved in relief distribution have been arrested mainly for conducting such an event amid coronavirus and for not maintaining proper hygienic measures, ignoring the ban on public gatherings.[210]

Travel restrictions[edit source | edit]

The government also banned the arrival of travellers from several countries of continental Europe including Spain, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, France, Austria and Netherlands,[211][212] extending this to the United Kingdom on 15 March.[213][214] The travel ban was also imposed to foreign travellers from India, South Korea and Iran.[215] SriLankan Airlines have cancelled several scheduled flights from several countries including India amid coronavirus fears.[216] As of 17 March 2020 midnight, Sri Lankan government ordered travel restrictions to Canada, Bahrain and Qatar.[217] The landing of aircraft were also suspended for two weeks with immediate effect from 19 March until 25 March at BIA airport except the arrival of cargo goods.[218][219] The government also extended the validity of all visas of foreigners till 12 April.[220]

On 22 March, the government banned the arrival of all incoming passenger ships and planes.[221]

Arrests and legal actions[edit source | edit]

On 16 March four Sri Lankans who evaded quarantine after returning from South Korea were arrested by the Sri Lankan police while hiding in their homes. Legal action was also taken against a 45-year-old patient who despite knowing his travel partner to Germany was infected avoided instructions to admit himself for treatment.[222] Later he tested himself from a private hospital despite a ban on private testing of the virus by the government. He only admitted himself at the IDH after 3 days with the virus.[223][224]

On 20 March the Mayor of Dambulla Jaliya Opatha and another was arrested by the police after he organised a bicycle race despite the ban on gatherings. Twenty were taken into custody by Sri Lanka Navy in Kochchikade and Puttalam coasts after attempting to go out after curfew and a court case was filed against the COVID-19 patient that admitted himself to Ragama Hospital for chest pains while hiding his travel history resulting in quarantining of the hospital staff.[225][226]

As of 27 March, nearly 4,000 people were arrested for breaching the curfew rules imposed by the government.[227][228]

On 29 March 2020, the main suspect who was also the mastermind behind the Easter bombing in the Zion Church was arrested by police in Mount Lavinia during the curfew which was imposed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country.[229][230][231] The suspect was identified as a 40-year-old resident of Dehiwala/Mount Lavinia and was accused of transporting the suicide bomber to the Zion Church in Batticaloa.[232][233] The suspect is also alleged of handling the suicide bomber who attacked the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade.[234]

As of 15 May, more than 55,000 people were arrested for breaching the curfew rules imposed by the government.[235] Some people have been arrested for allegedly spreading false information about the COVID-19 pandemic.[236]

Curfews and Lockdowns[edit source | edit]

On 18 March, Sri Lanka Police imposed an emergency curfew in Puttalam, Negombo, Kochikade and Chilaw as around 800 returnees from Italy have speculated to have visited those areas.[237][238] The statement was officially confirmed by the Army General Shavendra Silva.[239] On 19 March, emergency curfew was imposed from 10pm in the night in few areas including Wattala and Ja-Ela until further notice following the discovery of a new coronavirus case in Ja-Ela.[240][241]

On 20 March, the Sri Lankan President announced that a lockdown styled curfew will be imposed for the entire nation from 20 March 6pm in the evening to 24 March 6am in the morning to contain the coronavirus pandemic.[242][243][244] It was earlier revealed that the government would impose the curfew from 20 to 23 March but it was further extended to 24 March early morning 6am due to surge in new cases. However, the government announced that the curfew will be lifted from most parts of the country from 23 March except Colombo, Gampaha, Jaffna, Kilinochi and Mulaitivu to encourage rural public to engage in retail purchases.[245]

On 23 March, the government announced that it will impose the quarantine curfew from 24 March 12pm in the noon until 27 March to contain the spreading of coronavirus and also the government banned the citizens from inter-district travel from 24 to 27 March.[246] On 24 March, the government imposed curfew for very high risk zones such as Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara indefinitely for a maximum period of two weeks.[247] On 28 March, government extended curfew further for Jaffna district and Kandy district until further notice.[248]

On 9 April, government announced curfew in the Ratnapura and Pelmadulla police divisions in the Ratnapura District until further notice.[249] On 13 April, two villages; Panvila and Cheena Koratuwa in Beruwala isolated due to COVID-19 threat until further notice.[250] On 16 April, Bandaranaike Mawatha in Hultsdorf was completely closed down after a resident tested positive for COVID-19 who returned from India and symptoms detected after 33 days.[251] On the same day, Nagalgam street in Grandpass also declared as an isolated area until further notice.[252]

On 22 April, 12 Villages in the Lankapura Division of Polonnaruwa declared as isolated areas after identifying first corona patient from Polonnaruwa district.[93] On 24 April, Uhana and Damana areas in Ampara district declared temporarily lockdown until further notice due to Welisara Navy camp personnel.[253] On 28 April, Havelock Lane, Dabare Mawatha in Colombo 05 and Hete Watte at Torrington were declared isolated villages.[254][255]

Meanwhile, on 3 May, Panwila and China Fort areas in Beruwala and Akurana in Kandy declared reopened.[256] On 29 May, government declared quarantine curfew to Nuwara Eliya District from 29th until 31st May Sunday night due to large assemblies on streets for the demise of minister Arumugam Thondaman.[257]

International support[edit source | edit]

The Government of China extended their support to Sri Lanka by extending the concessionary loan of US$500 million in order to fight the coronavirus.[258] The US government also lent their support to combat coronavirus outbreak by donating essential supplies such as nitrile gloves and heavy duty work gloves.[259]

The founder of Alibaba Group Chinese billionaire Jack Ma announced his plans to help the Asian countries affected by the coronavirus including Sri Lanka by providing essential emergency supplies such as masks, test kits and confirmed it on his Twitter account.[260][261]

On 7 April, the Government of India donated 10 tonnes of consignment of essential medicines to tackle the coronavirus. The donation was given in good faith to Sri Lanka for its voluntary contribution to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund.[262]

Criticisms regarding Big Match[edit source | edit]

The health authorities have ordered self-isolation for 14 days to those who attended the annual Big Match, which is a cricket match held between S.Thomas' College Mount Lavinia and Royal College Colombo which is also popularly known as the Battle of the Blues.[263] The warning was raised after one of the old boys of S.Thomas College who is also one of the co-pilots of Sri Lankan Airlines was infected with the coronavirus after attending the match. The officials warned that there is a possibility of the virus being spread to the crowd mainly including the old boys of their respective schools who gathered in large numbers.[264] It was earlier reported that the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urged the organisers to cancel the Big Match but the organisers neglected the instructions given by the President and went ahead with the match. Several companies and businesses have ordered their employees who attended the Big Match to not report to work for 14 days.[265]

Criticisms regarding general public[edit source | edit]

Former Sri Lankan cricketer Mahela Jayawardene took to social media and slammed the public who stayed in long queues in the supermarket without maintaining distance and not wearing face masks. He criticized that the people were not aware of their behavior in order to safeguard themselves from the virus.[266]

The supermarket chains in the country have made arrangements to control the panic buying and queuing of the public.[267] The general public has been heavily criticized for lack of support to combat coronavirus pandemic due to their reckless behavior.[citation needed]

Research and Development[edit source | edit]

Both state and private institutions began Research and Development programs to find solutions to issues created by the Pandemic. Research and Development Unit of Sri Lanka Navy developed a remote-controlled smart appliance called ‘Medi Mate’ to allow healthcare to maintain distance from patients during testing and treatment. Medi Mate is wheeled and remote-controlled allowing workers to communicate with patients as well as transport medicine and meals as well as spray sanitizing liquid through an automated nozzle. The Research and Development Unit of Sri Lanka Navy also developed a disinfection chamber and variants with added features that were placed in Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital and University Hospital KDU.[268]

Vega Innovations, a subsidiary of CodeGen Group of Companies together with the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka designed a low-cost Volume Controlled – Continuous Mandatory Ventilation (VC-CMV) Medical Ventilator that can produce for a cost under US$650 per unit.[269]

Atlas Axillia PLC, a subsidiary of the Hemas Group, developed the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) robot which is able to carry food and medicine, perform basic medical check-ups such as checking temperatures, allow doctors to monitor patients remotely and have conversations with them. The AGV recharges itself using a wireless port to further reduce contact with workers. The first prototype was gifted to Base Hospital Homagama.[270]

Engineers of faculty of engineering, University of Peradeniya has repaired and developed oxygen respiratory systems and ICU beds.[271] National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka allocated funding to combat COVID-19 pandemic and called proposals from Sri Lankan scientists.[272]

Center for Research and Development (CRD) of the Defence Ministry developed an interactive remotely operated robotic platform called Dr. Robort, a disinfection corridor and two mobile disinfection platforms. The Ministry of Defence requested the private sector to collaborate to commercialise these innovations and begin large scale manufacturing.[273]

MSC Magnifica[edit source | edit]

MSC Magniica's only Sri Lankan crew member on board and an ill passenger was disembarked when reached Colombo Harbour on her way back to Italy

A Sri Lankan chef crew member, Anura Bandara Herath on board of MSC Magnifica made a request to Sri Lankan government on social media to take charge of him when the cruise ship reached Colombo Harbor for refuel and supply on her way back to Italy. The president responding to the request has directed to the commander of Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva to bring the chef on ashore. A team of Navy's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRNE) unit retrieved the chef and brought him ashore. Herath was directed to a quarantine center in Boossa for 14 days of mandatory quarantine. A 75 years old German female passenger also disembarked on heart-related ailment and was admitted to Sri Lanka National hospital.[274] On April 13, it was reported that she died in the hospital with complications according to hospital sources.[275]

Nagitimu Sri Lanka[edit source | edit]

A song titled "Nagitumu Sri Lanka" was launched by "Gammadda" initiative as a part of MTV/MBC network in order to give tribute to the people of the country to rise up again by showing resilience from the coronavirus pandemic.[276]

Impact[edit source | edit]

Elections[edit source | edit]

On 19 March, Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya revealed that the 2020 Sri Lankan parliamentary election would be postponed indefinitely until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.[277][278] Sri Lankan government initially insisted that scheduled forthcoming the election would proceed as planned on 25 April despite the coronavirus pandemic, and the authorities banned election rallies and meetings.[279] On April 3, 2020 Sri Lanka's Election Commission wrote to President Rajapaksa to seek court opinion on parliamentary election delay[280] saying that they think that the elections will not be able to complete before June 1 as per president's Gazette notification. In reply to the letter Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera wrote the commission that the commission has fail to act in provision of the section 24 of the Parliamentary elections act of Sri Lanka, and ask them to hold the elections.[281] creating a debate between the office of the president and the elections commission.[282]

On April 19, 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa made a public statement that the Elections Commission has no authority to postpone General Election without fixing an alternate date.[283][284] The day after the commission met in Colombo and announced June 20 as the new date despite increasing corona cases in the island, with almost all opposition parties made concerns how to hold its campaign with the ongoing curfew.[285] President Gotabaya Rajapaksa refused to recall the old parliament.

On 10 June 2020, Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya confirmed that the postponed parliamentary elections will be held on 5 August 2020 with strict health measures and guidelines.[286][287][288]

Tourism[edit source | edit]

The coronavirus outbreak further affected the downfall of the tourism sector of the country which was recovering slowly from the impact of the 2019 Easter bombings. The tourism sector was directly affected with the decrease of Chinese tourist arrivals. The Sri Lankan government also suspended flights to mainland China and pilgrimages to India.[289] Jayasundara has also refused to seek advise from countries highest court.[citation needed]

Environment[edit source | edit]

The air quality index shown a drastic improvement in the quality of air in highly dense areas such as Colombo ever since the imposing of indefinite curfews.[290]

Education[edit source | edit]

The government ordered to close schools for five weeks from 12 March to 20 April which also marks the end of the first term and also the academic school exams slated for the first term were also scrapped.[291][292][293] The private tuition classes and tutorials including the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka were also closed from 26 March.[294] On April 11, 2020, Government announce that new school year was postponed until May 11, 2020.[295]

Sri Lankan government announced that it will reopen the schools from 29 June 2020 in four stages. However the schools will be opened for students only from 7 July 2020 and government ordered that teachers should attend school from 29 June to make arrangements regarding health guidelines before starting to teach.[296] The GCE A/L examinations was postponed to 7 September 2020 and the scholarship exam was postponed to 13 September 2020.[297]

Entertainment[edit source | edit]

The Sri Lankan government imposed ban on public gatherings for two weeks amid coronavirus fears and insisted that the permission should be taken from the police in order to do so.[298] All film theatres, national parks, zoological gardens and botanical gardens throughout the country have been closed until further notice.[299] The Sri Lanka Planetarium has also been shut down until further notice with immediate effect from 17 March.[300]

Economy[edit source | edit]

The Colombo Stock Exchange closed at a new eight-year low amid the coronavirus fears.[301] The stock market activities were halted for at least 30 minutes on 13 March.[302] On 5 March 2020, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka released monetary policy review and the monetary authority decided to maintain policy interest rates unchanged despite coronavirus outbreak (SDFR fixed at 6.5% and the SLFR fixed at 7.5%).[303][304] On 16 March 2020, on a surprising move the Central Bank of Sri Lanka revised monetary policy review and cut the policy rates by 25 basis points and also cut the statutory reserve ratio by 1 basis point due to the coronavirus pandemic.[305][306] The CBSL continued its expansionary monetary policy to prosper the economy.[307][308] Further the CBSL governor W. D. Lakshman requested the financial institutions to not panic due to the economic impact caused by coronavirus.[309] On 18 March, the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the Colombo Stock Exchange to be closed until 19 March.[310] CSE has also been given special holidays on 23 and 24 March.[citation needed] Colombo Stock Exchange is scheduled to open on 11 May.[311][312]

The Central Bank requested the banking sector to operate banking activities for at least two hours on 23 March and the banks encouraged general public to utilize electronic transactions and ATM services instead of physical cash.[313][314] Experts revealed that the country is likely to mark a record-low negative growth rate for the first time since 2001 due to the economic pressures caused by coronavirus pandemic.[315] Commercial Bank of Ceylon stated it would help the customers who are hardly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.[316] Fishermen are one of the hardly affected due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country as the export prices of the fish mainly to the European Union have drastically reduced. The fishermen have been unable to sell 400 tones of newly caught fish due to the restrictions imposed by the authorities.[317]

As of 27 March, the domestic Sri Lankan rupee further depreciated against the US dollar to 191.99 amid the coronavirus pandemic.[318]

As of 8 April 2020 the domestic Sri Lankan rupee further depreciated against the US dollar to 200.47 making history that its first time reaching the Rs200 level or above mark, despite Sri Lankan government's effects to control it.[319][320]

Several Mega companies in Sri Lanka ranked as top companies in the island announced that they will cut down its employees salaries from 5% to 35%. These companies include John Keells Holdings, Sri Lankan Airlines, and Sri Lanka's biggest apparel exporter Brandix Lanka to name a few.[321][322][323]

On 21 April, government announced that all liquor stores closed-down until further notice.[324][325] Despite relaxing of quarantine on 11 May, liquor shops would be remained closed until further notice.[326]

Religious services[edit source | edit]

On 15 March 2020, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith held a televised church service to combat coronavirus pandemic and the archbishop revealed that church service and holy masses in Colombo and Chilaw will not be conducted until 31 March 2020.[327][328] The ACJU also requested to stop Friday Jummah prayers in mosques until further notice.[329][330][331]

However, isolated incidents of Mosques ignoring the curfew to hold gatherings and prayers were reported and in one incident in Horowpathana 18 were arrested while several dozen fled the police. As a result, the ACJU suspended the board of Trustees of the concerned Mosque and issued a statement praising the government and requested action against those spreading hate speech due to the incidents.[332][333]

The Sunday mass services were cancelled for two weeks as of 14 April. Sri Lankan buddhist monks started Pirith Chanting a type of prayers to combat against COVID-19 island wide temples on a weekly basis.[334]

Sports[edit source | edit]

The England and Wales Cricket Board suggested English cricketers should not follow the tradition of handshaking during the 2 match test series tour to Sri Lanka which was scheduled to commence on 19 March 2020.[335] Instead the players were advised to bump fists as a precaution.[336] The ECB also told English players not to take selfies or sign autographs with the crowd, and imposed a ban on interaction with fans.[337] On 13 March, the cricket tour was called off, the first-class match in progress was immediately abandoned as a draw, and arrangements were made for the players to come home.[338] Both cricket boards are planning to reschedule the fixtures.[339][340]

The domestic cricket matches have also been postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak and initially the Sri Lanka Cricket planned to conduct the matches until 16 March.[341] Sri Lankan cricketers were improving their fitness levels during curfew period.[342]

On 20 April 2020, cricket boards of Sri Lanka and South Africa confirmed that the South African cricket tour to Sri Lanka had been postponed due to the pandemic.[343][344]

George Floyd protests[edit source | edit]

On 9 June 2020, Black Lives Matter protests were staged by the activists, followers and supporters of the Frontline Socialist Party as a part of the International George Floyd protests calling for justice of murdering George Floyd in front of the US Embassy in Kollupitiya, Colombo.[345][346] However the protests became violent when police arrested nearly 20 people for violating the health and quarantine regulations.[347]

False reports and rumours[edit source | edit]

On 12 March 2020, false reports were claimed by few individuals in social media that the son of 52-year-old tour guide who was infected with COVID-19 virus also deemed to have infected with the virus.[348] However, the allegations were refused by the Ministry of Health and was evident that the boy who was falsely alleged to have infected with the virus was reported later that no symptoms were identified after thorough checking and was revealed to be the student of the Ananda College.[349] Sri Lankan Police requested to the general public to not mislead themselves from rumours which are spread across social media platforms.[350]

On 12, 13 and 14 March, general public rushed to the supermarkets and grocery shopping centers with the intention of bulk purchases speculating that the country could face possibility of lockdown amid coronavirus fears, rumours were also spreading in social media that there is a shortage of products in the country.[351][352] The Sri Lankan government later insisted the public to not unnecessarily panic about the coronavirus pandemic and revealed that there is no shortage of essential items in the country including petroleum and food.[353] Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry chairperson Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson revealed that there is no shortage of essential pharmaceutical products and drugs.[354] There were rumours regarding the house-to-house quarantine in the social media but the government refused the allegations.[355]

On 16 March, opposition MP Rajitha Senaratne made a controversial statement that 10 school students being infected with the virus while MP Sarath Fonseka claimed that there three deaths due to the coronavirus. However, on 18 March Sarath Fonseka accepted it was a mistake and that he was merely quoting false information on Facebook. The police began an investigation on the two MPs.[356]

Former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa promoted Plaquenil as a drug superior than Hydroxychloroquine. Plaquenil is the brand name of Hydroxycholoroquine and is the same drug. Due to its serious side effects self-administration is not recommended. Premadasa also claimed Azithromycin can treat side effects of Hydroxycholoroquine. Azithromycin is an antibiotic and is not used to treat side effects of Hydroxycholoroquine.[357] Sajith Premadasa later apologised for spreading misinformation.[358]

Prison riots[edit source | edit]

On 21 March, a protest was held by prison inmates in Anuradhapura to separate themselves from each other after the identification of four reported coronavirus cases in Anuradhapura.[359] The protest became violent during a shooting incident resulting in the death of two prisoners, leaving a further six injured.[360][361][362]

Statistics[edit source | edit]

The plot above is a chart showing the growth of cases in Sri Lanka since March 11, 2020. The plots below use a log scale for the y axes. Each major division is a factor of ten. This makes the slope of the plot the relative rate of change anywhere in the timeline, which allows comparison of data between early and later periods of the pandemic.

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  198. http://www.dailymirror.lk/top_story/Health-Ministry-seeks-1000-body-bags/155-187234
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  283. https://www.reddit.com/r/DDnews/comments/g3qqh0/mahinda_rajapaksa_says_ec_has_no_authority_to/
  284. http://ddnews.gov.in/international/mahinda-rajapaksa-says-ec-has-no-authority-postpone-general-election-without-fixing
  285. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lanka-ec-announces-polls-on-june-20-opposition-voices-concern/article31399570.ece
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