GMOA’s COVID-19 exit strategy advocates racial profiling

Saturday, 18 April 2020 01:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Exit strategy advocates categorising country into 3 main zones, namely, Sterile, Contaminated and Buffer zones
  • Part of the methodology taking Colombo District as example mentions taking into consideration the Muslim population
  • GMOA-ICTA concept paper on COVID-19 Exit Strategy for Sri Lanka presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this month


The concept paper presented by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) and the Information and Comm-unication Technology Agency (ICTA) on COVID-19 Exit Strategy presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this month advocates racial profiling as part of its methodology.

The GMOA says the exit strategy was based on the common structure which was applicable to a surgical theatre in hospitals, which is supposed to be sterile in the context of a contaminated environment and therefore the country would be categorised under three main zones, namely, Sterile, Contaminated, and Buffer zones.

This report spells out the criteria to declare these three zones and the governance structure within every zone.

As part of the methodology, the GMOA said the Sterile, Buffer and Contaminated zones would be identified based on formulated score points and these score points would be derived based on weightage coefficients calculation using artificial intelligence software solution.

In the concept paper, the GMOA gives an explanation by using the Colombo District as an example using data, of which only the data regarding population is accurate. “In order to clearly explain the methodology, all the other data as mentioned below are dummy data which are areas of each Divisional Secretariat (DS), the Muslim population and all other data included.

“In order to carry this out, two data sets were considered. One is case and quarantine information which in each Divisional Secretariat area of a district, the number of patients with the first line contacts are considered.

“This could be extended to second and third line contacts based on expert opinion. This provision can be developed in the software solution on request. Both patients and quarantined individuals including their locations based on latitude and longitude are considered.”

The second data set comprises 12 variables regarding each Divisional Secretariat with the vital variables identified as number of coronavirus cases, number quarantined, population density and Muslim population.

In addition, the number of petrol sheds, number of Government hospitals, alcohol consumption per day, unemployment rate, average temperature, annual rainfall and number of hotspots will also be considered.

The Sterile zones will be areas having no confirmed cases of COVID-19 for a period of 28 days prior to declaration and no suspects or contacts of COVID-19 patients within the zone for a period of 28 days. 

“Following the initial defining of the zones, the presence of at least one case or suspect will change the nomenclature of the zone to a Contaminated zone.”

A Contaminated zone will be one having at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 28 days prior to declaration and the presence of suspects or contacts of COVID-19 patients who will be tested immediately.

Following this if at any point the number of cases or suspects become zero for a period of 28 days the area nomenclature will be converted from Contaminated zone to Sterile zone.

The Buffer zone will be an area which is sterile; having no confirmed cases, no suspects or contacts for a period of 28 days but situated between a Sterile zone and a Contaminated zone.

The Buffer zone may even be situated between two districts as Divisional Secretariats bordering the two districts must also be considered.

The GMOA said the document provided an outline for an exit strategy from the current lockdown style curfew in Sri Lanka and its key feature was the dynamic process of evolving and responding to the changing circumstances.

“It is impossible to develop a static or a rigid strategy at this stage. The virus will appear and disappear in different places in the country. We will have to establish a mechanism which can cope with those changes. While many countries in the world are struggling to develop their exit strategies, we believe our thoughtful proposal will have the capacity to go from strength to strength with our experience. We will also be able to share it with other low- and middle-income countries which are looking for good examples,” the GMOA said in the document.

Further development and suggestions to be included can be mailed to on or before the 22 April with the subject ‘EXIT STRATEGY’.