Sri Lanka Successfully Tackles COVID-19 Pandemic, Becomes An Example in Southeast Asia

Report By Nandika Chand | Bengaluru | Last Updated at May 20 2020

The first case came out in Sri Lanka in the last week of January, after which there were no cases till mid-March. During that gap, the government ensured that the public health surveillance was activated to find any cases with respiratory illnesses.

After a two-month lockdown, Sri Lanka is the first country in Southeast Asia to successfully tackly the COVID-19 pandemic. It has reported only 960 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and nine deaths.

The island nation’s success story is partially attributed to its relatively high coronavirus testing rate. According to reports, Sri Lanka was conducting 930 tests per 1 million people, this is in comparison to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh (393), India (602) and Pakistan (703).

The World Health Organization said Sri Lanka’s early lockdown played a huge role. WHO’s representative to Sri Lanka, Razia Pendse said over 50% of the COViD-19 cases in the island nation are of people between the ages of 20 to 60. She said relatively younger people are less vulnerable to a severe presentation of the disease. “A reason why most cases are mild may be that the lockdown in Sri Lanka started very early,” Pendse reasoned.

She said Sri Lanka closely monitored the pandemic’s movement right from the very first case. “The first case came out in Sri Lanka in the last week of January, after which there were no cases till mid-March. During that gap, the government ensured that the public health surveillance was activated to find any cases with respiratory illnesses. Once the cases were identified, we conducted the needed diagnostics so that we were able to rule out any suspected COVID-19 cases,” WHO representative, Pendse said.

Reports highlight another plus factor in tackling the outbreak to Sri Lankan government’s decision to deliver routine health checks and medication directly to the homes of patients. The island nation’s population is also a major factor.

Moreover, Sri Lanka has a ‘model healthcare system’ whereby health experts have been studying it since the 1980s. It has a legacy of early, decades-long investment in its health system and low overall spending. According to a report, “Good Health at Low Cost” by Rockfeller Foundation, most Sri Lankans live within 3 kilometers of a public health facility. It highlights that since the year 2000, there has been an average of three hospital beds per 1000 people compared with the average of two beds per 1000 people in middle income countries.

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