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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Sri Lanka

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Sri Lanka
DiseaseCOVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationSri Lanka Sri Lanka
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseColombo
Date27 January 2020 - present
(2 months and 1 week)
Confirmed cases151[1][2]
Recovered21[1]
Deaths
4[1]
Official website
epid.gov.lk

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Sri Lanka is an ongoing viral pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As of 2 April 2020, 151 confirmed cases have been reported in the country with 4 deaths.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] On 3 March 2020, the first reported case involving a Sri Lankan origin outside Sri Lanka was reported in Italy. As of 23 March 2020, 45 quarantine centres have been built in the country by the Sri Lanka Army as a preventive measure to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.[11] Nearly 3500 people have been under quarantine in 45 quarantine centres which also include 31 foreigners from 14 countries.[12]

As of 25 th March 2020 Sri Lankan authorities have tracked down over 14000 people who had contacted the identified patients and had ordered self quarantine for such people.[13]


COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-01-28
1(n.a.)
1(=)
2020-03-12
2(+100%)
2020-03-13
3(+50%)
2020-03-14
6(+100%)
2020-03-15
11(+83%)
2020-03-16
19(+73%)
2020-03-17
29(+53%)
2020-03-18
42(+45%)
2020-03-19
53(+26%)
2020-03-20
66(+24%)
2020-03-21
72(+9.1%)
2020-03-22
78(+8.3%)
2020-03-23
87(+12%)
2020-03-24
97(+11%)
2020-03-25
102(+5.1%)
2020-03-26
102(0%)
2020-03-27
106(+3.9%)
2020-03-28
106(+0%)
2020-03-29
115(+8.5%) 1(n.a.)
2020-03-30
117(+1.7%) 1(0)
2020-03-31
122(+4.3%) 2(+1)
2020-04-01
143(+17%) 2(0)
2020-04-02
148(+3.5%) 3(+1)
Sources:

Notes:

Timeline

27 January – 9 March

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.[14] A 22-member National Action Committee has been set up by the ministry to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Sri Lanka.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] She had arrived as a tourist with another group of travellers, and had been screened at the Bandaranaike International Airport after having a high fever. She had fully recovered and was released from hospital on 19 February.[18]

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.[19] 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.[19] As a result, the country's drug regulatory agency placed price controls on face masks.[19][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.[20] They were released after two weeks quarantine period on 14 February.[21]

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.[22] On 10 March 2020, 2 Sri Lankan origins living in United Arab Emirates reported with coronavirus cases were identified.[citation needed]

10 March – 23 March

On 10 March, the first Sri Lankan local national tested positive for COVID-19.[23] A 52-year-old tour guide working with a group of Italians had tested positive. He is under treatment in Infectious Disease Hospital, Angoda.[24] Twenty nine patients were under observation in government hospitals, including eight foreigners.[25] Following the new developments, the country suspended on arrival visa for tourists on 11 March [26][27]

On 12 March, another Sri Lankan person confirmed positive for COVID-19.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30]

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 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.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33] On 16 March, 10 more cases were reported, taking the tally to 28.[34][35] On 17 March, another 15 more cases were reported taking the tally to 43.[36] 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.[37]

Districtwise distribution of COVID-19 confirmed cases - as of 2 April 2020
District/Area COVID-19 patients
Quarantine centers 34
Colombo 33
Puttalam 25
Kalutara 24
Gampaha 11
Kandy 4
Jaffna 4
Foreigners 3
Ratnapura 3
Kurunegala 2
Galle 1
Kegalle 1
Batticaloa 1
Badulla 1
Matara 1
Total 148

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.[38] 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.[39][40][41] 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.[42] On 21 March, 6 more cases were confirmed taking the tally to 77.[43] An Army officer who was engaged in escorting Sri Lankans to quarantine centres also contracted with Coronavirus.[43]

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.[44] 5 more cases were reported on 22 March taking the tally to 82.[45] On 23 March, 5 more cases were reported taking the tally to 87.[46] On 23 March, country's first locally identified person infected with the coronavirus has been discharged from the hospital after showing improvement during recovery.[47]

24 March – present

On 24 March, assistant of the church pastor was reported to have been tested positive for COVID-19.[48] 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. 6 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.[49]

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.[50] 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 hospitalized after displayed COVID-19 symptoms. They were admitted to the Kalutara Nagoda Hospital.[51] On 28 March, first corona patient was identified from Akurana, Kandy district. A person recently had come from Chennai, India diagnosed with COVID-19.[52] 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.[53]

On 27 March, 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.[54] On 29 March, two more Sri Lankan nationals died from COVID-19 resided in England. Henry Jayawardena (aged 70) retired doctor and Lakshan Wijeratne (aged 55), both were treated in ICU, UK.[55]

On 28 March, first Coronvirus patient had died in Si Lanka. A 60-year-old patient, from Marawila, who also had a kidney transplant and had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure.[56] The body was cremated within 15 hours. On 30 March, second death from COVID-19, a 60 years old man from Negambo was recorded.[57] Five more cases were reported including a four-month old baby on 30 March increasing the total up to 122.[58]

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 neighbours complained to the police.[59]

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).[60][61] 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.[62][63]

On 2 April, four 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.[64]

Response

Sri Lankan government has requested the general public to practice proper hygiene methods and self quarantine methods to safeguard from the disease.[65]

On 14 March, the Sri Lankan government declared 16 March 2020, as a national public holiday to contain the coronavirus spreading in the country.[66][67][68]

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.[69] Sri Lankan President directed the authorities to implement proper quarantine centres to examine the foreigners and ordered relevant authorities to provide necessary essential services to the general public via internet.[70]

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.[71] 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.[72][73]

On 17 March 2020, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka has not reached full-time quarantine level and criticised the comparisons regarding the country's situation with lockdown in Italy which was urged by Sri Lankan general public in the social media.[74] 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.[75]

Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi revealed that around 24 hospitals are available ready to tackle the coronavirus emergency.[76]

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.[77] The government is also planning to convert former Voice of America relay station into a COVID-19 treating hospital.[78]

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.[79]

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.[80] The President himself contributed about Rs. 100 million from President Fund.[81] 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.[82] 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.[83]

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 network 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.[84] Sri Lanka's main apparel manufacturer Brandix offered one of its factory as a quarantine centre 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.[85] The government also declared that Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara as the high risk zones which are prone to the possibility of coronavirus pandemic.[86] 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.[87]

The government extended the work from home period until 3 April due to extension of indefinite curfews in high risk zones of the country.[88] However government has taken necessary actions to resolve the issues faced by 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.[89]

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.[90] Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa initially hosted an all party press conference to curb the pandemic.[91][92]

Political agenda

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa condemned former UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's remarks over possibility of the shortage of funds after 30 April and criticised him for politicising the current coronavirus pandemic.[93][94] Ranil also ridiculously claimed that President do not have the authority after dissolving the parliament to make allocations for the budget in order to curb the virus after 30 April according to the constitution. The government firmly warned Sajith Premadasa and UNP party for spreading rumours and misinformation among the general public and accused the opposition party UNP of earning political gains from the coronavirus pandemic.[citation needed]

Philadelphia Missionary Church

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.[95] It was reported that on 15 March 2020, the main senior pastor of the church conducted special Sunday service.[96] 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.[97][98][99] The person also believed to have infected with the virus after coming to Sri Lanka.[100] 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.[101] 3 of them are under medical treatment at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and all 240 people have been isolated.[citation needed]

Travel restrictions

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,[102][103] extending this to the United Kingdom on 15 March.[104][105] The travel ban was also imposed to foreign travellers from India, South Korea and Iran.[106] SriLankan Airlines have cancelled several scheduled flights from several countries including India amid coronavirus fears.[107] As of 17 March 2020 midnight, Sri Lankan government ordered travel restrictions to Canada, Bahrain and Qatar.[108] 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.[109][110] The government also extended the validity of all visas of foreigners till 12 April.[111]

On 22 March, the government banned the arrival of all incoming passenger ships and planes.[112]

Arrests and legal actions

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.[113] 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.[114][115]

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. 20 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.[116][117]

As of 27 March, nearly 4000 people were arrested for breaching the curfew rules imposed by the government.[118][119]

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.[120][121][122] 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.[123][124] The suspect is also alleged of handling the suicide bomber who attacked the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade.[125]

Curfews

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.[126][127] The statement was officially confirmed by the Army General Shavendra Silva.[128] 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.[129][130]

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.[131][132][133] 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.[134]

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.[135] 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.[136] On 28 March, government extended curfew further for Jaffna district and Kandy district until further notice.[137]

International support

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.[138] The US government also lent their support to combat coronavirus outbreak by donating essential supplies such as nitrile gloves and heavy duty work gloves.[139]

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.[140][141]

Criticisms regarding Big Match

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.[142] 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.[143] 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.[144]

Criticisms regarding general public

Former Sri Lankan veteran 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 criticised that the people were not aware of their behaviour in order to safeguard themselves from the virus.[145]

The supermarket chains in the country have made arrangements to control the panic buying and queuing of the public.[146] The general public have been heavily criticised for lack of support to combat coronavirus pandemic due to their reckless behaviour.[citation needed]

Impact

Elections

On 19 March, Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya revealed that the 2020 Sri Lankan parliamentary election will be postponed indefinitely until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.[147][148] 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.[149]

Tourism

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.[150]

Education

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.[151][152][153] The private tuition classes and tutorials including the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka are also closed for two weeks until 26 March.[154]

Entertainment

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.[155] All film theatres, zoos throughout the country have been closed until further notice.[156] The Sri Lanka Planetarium has also been shut down until further notice with immediate effect from 17 March.[157]

Economy

The Colombo Stock Exchange closed at a new 8 year low amid the coronavirus fears.[158] The stock market activities were halted for at least 30 minutes on 13 March.[159] 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%).[160][161] 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.[162][163] The CBSL continued its expansionary monetary policy to prosper the economy.[164][165] Further the CBSL governor W. D. Lakshman requested the financial institutions to not panic due to the economic impact caused by coronavirus.[166] On 18 March, the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the Colombo Stock Exchange to be closed until 19 March.[167] CSE has also been given special holidays on 23 and 24 March.[citation needed]

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.[168][169] 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.[170] Commercial Bank of Ceylon stated it would help the customers who are hardly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.[171] 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 tonnes of newly caught fish due to the restrictions imposed by the authorities.[172]

As of 27 March, the domestic Sri Lankan Rupee further depreciated against the US Dollar to 191.99 amid the coronavirus pandemic.[173]

Religious services

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.[174][175] The ACJU also requested to stop Friday Jummah prayers in mosques until further notice.[176][177][178]

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.[179][180]

Sports

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.[181] Instead the players were advised to bump fists as a precaution.[182] The ECB also told English players not to take selfies or sign autographs with the crowd, and imposed a ban on interaction with fans.[183] 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.[184] Both cricket boards are planning to reschedule the fixtures.[185][186]

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.[187]

False reports and rumours

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.[188] 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.[189] Sri Lankan Police requested to the general public to not mislead themselves from rumours which are spread across social media platforms.[190]

On 12, 13 and 14 March, general public rushed to the supermarkets and grocery shopping centres 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.[191][192] 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.[193] Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry chairperson Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson revealed that there is no shortage of essential pharmaceutical products and drugs.[194] There were rumours regarding the house-to-house quarantine in the social media but the government refused the allegations.[195]

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.[196]

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.[197] Sajith Premadasa later apologised for spreading misinformation.[198]

Prison riots

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.[199] The protest became violent during a shooting incident resulting in the death of two prisoners, leaving a further six injured.[200][201][202]

Statistics

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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