Sri Lanka Vs COVID-19: The Importance of Winning an Early Battle
Prior to taking over the current role in the ministry of environment, Anil Jasinghe, MD, held the post of director general of health services. Dr. Jasinghe’s remarkable leadership in the successful control and management of the COVID-19 outbreak made him a household name in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Anil Jasinghe spoke about Sri Lanka’s experience in managing the COVID-19 outbreak, and how anticipating the crisis and planning ahead greatly helped in containing the crisis.
Sri Lanka set up a technical committee headed by the director general of health services. The committee drew up strategies, including an emergency mechanism for restricting public movement, ensuring non-essential workers stayed home, establishing mechanisms to maintain essential services, and imposing restrictions on air travel from high risk countries. Early actions such as thermal screening at ports of entry, suspension of visa on arrival, and the establishment of a quarantine center were in place by the end of January.
Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in South Asia to develop the capacity to diagnose COVID-19. The country’s strategy worked because of a historically robust healthcare system, able political leadership, evidence-based disease control strategies, targeted PCR testing, support from the army for quarantine and contact tracing, and the effective use of media to spread awareness.
● Attributes of success: strong healthcare systems, evidence-based disease control, targeted PCR testing.
● Created a safety culture to conduct successful general elections.
● Committed discipline from all stakeholders.
● Anticipated the crisis, and planned strategies and timely implementation of public health activities ensured disease control.