By Namal Rajapaksa
A little over a month ago, Sri Lanka detected its first local COVID-19 infected patient, leading to more cases eventually being reported from across the country.
Today, a month later, the country has detected over 200 COVID-19 infected patients while over 50 of them have been successfully treated and discharged. Over 100 are under medical observation in the designated hospitals while 7 deaths have been reported.
From the day the first case was detected in January, that of a Chinese national, immediate steps were taken by the government and authorities, to prevent a spread in the island nation. Today, under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and with the expertise and management of health workers, tri forces and all other leading personnel, Sri Lanka has to a great extent been able to limit the spread of the virus as only home transmissions are yet being detected. The work of our front line personnel in this battle is truly commendable.
While locally we have taken the best steps to ensure citizens remain safe, all our Sri Lankan diplomatic missions are working round the clock to ensure that Sri Lankan nationals overseas are safe and well looked after during the pandemic. As we all know, presently the virus has not spared even one country and the world is fighting to eliminate it from the globe altogether.
The government is well aware that there are Sri Lankans who are waiting to return back home. The Foreign Ministry has recognized three groups, that is Sri Lankans employed overseas, students and nationals who are in other countries on short term visas and are stranded including at airports.
Within these past few days, many of the Sri Lankan nationals who are stranded overseas have contacted me personally on whatsapp and on other social media platforms, urging me to ensure that they can return back home soon. To all of you, I have held discussions with the Foreign Ministry and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as the Presidential Task Force and steps are being taken to bring back all of you as earliest as possible. The logistics are being worked out.
Sri Lankan missions overseas are continuously on call 24/7 while the Foreign Ministry and authorities are also working out a plan to get back our citizens. Currently they are identifying the countries and regions which are threatened the most by the pandemic and those who can be immediately transported back. Already a few days ago, the first batch of citizens who were stranded at airports returned back home safely and are currently under quarantine. Then last night, 14 Sri Lankans who were stranded at the Singapore and Dubai airports were also repatriated and all have been sent to the quarantine centers which has been made mandatory.
Sri Lanka’s airport may be shut for incoming passengers due to the global threat, but this will not prevent the authorities in reaching to those stranded. The Health Ministry is also closely monitoring and assisting the authorities in this matter and I assure all those overseas, to be patient. The authorities will reach out to you.
A plan is being formulated at the highest level. Sri Lanka President, Prime Minister, government, Health Ministry, medical officers, tri forces, police, Public Health Inspectors, are all at the forefront to eliminate this pandemic as soon as possible. No citizen will be left out. The safety of all will be ensured.
There are mechanisms which are functioning 24/7. We will beat this common enemy. Till then stay safe.