Measures in line with WHO guidelines and international practices
People wearing masks walk next to a thermal scanner at Bandaranaike International Airport after Sri Lanka confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, 30 January – Reuters
By Charumini de Silva
Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. (AASL) yesterday confirmed that proactive measures have been stepped up to identify, create awareness and to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) within the airport premises.
It was pointed out that all possible measures have been taken at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) with the support of the Tourism and Aviation Services Ministry in collaboration with the Health Ministry.
“We are following the procedure outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus infection and some of world’s most advanced airports,” AASL Chairman Rtd. Major General G. A. Chandrasiri told the Daily FT.
He also pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Tourism and Aviation Services Minister Prasanna Ranatunga are constantly looking into the matter, and with the advice of the health authorities, AASL has stepped up the precautionary measures to control the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
“In the past few days, we have had only four suspicious travellers who came from the airport, and it has been confirmed that they were not infected with coronavirus,” he added.
Two thermal scanners have already been installed at the BIA to identify potential infected travellers. The rest of the airport check-ins are at different locations.
However, he said that the arrival of Chinese tourists to the country has been minimal. According to AASL, over 4,050 passengers have arrived at BIA from 26 January, which includes 330 Sri Lankans as well as 1,940 Chinese nationals.
The Chairman said airport employees, with the support of the Health Ministry and military doctors, carry out 24-hour inspections of the passengers arriving and departing from the BIA.
“We do not allow anyone other than passengers to enter this perimeter. We are thoroughly checking those who come. We give a special tract to the passengers who arrive in the country. There is no need to panic as all authorities are keeping an eye on them. We will continue this program until the coronavirus is controlled,” he stressed.
Reiterating that the BIA premises are safe and geared to face the situation, Chandrasiri urged the public not to be intimidated.
Special flight dispatched to Wuhan
- SriLankan flight expected to return with 33 Sri Lankan students in Wuhan
- Charter flight sent after nearly a week of effort
- Returnees expected to be quarantined in Diyatalawa
- SL joins India and a number of other countries evacuating their citizens
Sri Lanka joined several other countries yesterday and sent a special charter flight to bring back Sri Lankans in Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus.
Flight UL 1422 of SriLankan Airlines took off from the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) yesterday afternoon. The flight would arrive around 3 a.m. today at BIA.
About 33 students are said to be studying in Wuhan, and the Government has been working to expedite the flights over the last week. The Government has already set in place measures to quarantine the students in the Diyatalawa Army Camp.
The Foreign Relations Ministry said as of 30 January, the estimated number of Sri Lankan students and family members remaining in China has declined to 284 persons, from the estimated 864 at the commencement of this health emergency. The statement said 580 persons have returned to Sri Lanka.
India also dispatched a flight to Wuhan yesterday. The Boeing 747 aircraft took off from Mumbai and made a brief halt in Delhi, with five doctors from the Union Health Ministry and one paramedical staff on board. The flight will only be at the Wuhan Airport for two to three hours.
A number of other countries around the world have also dispatched flights to bring their nationals home. The US and UK have seen about 200 of their nationals return while Australia will hold its evacuees in Christmas Island, which was earlier used to hold illegal immigrants. Currently the only residents in the Christmas Island are a Sri Lankan family, according to international reports.
Canada, Japan and South Korea have also flown their citizens home while the European Union is attempting to send two flights to evacuate some 350 citizens.
President instructs officials to explore indigenous, Western medicine to fight coronavirus
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday instructed health authorities to collect information from experts in indigenous and western medicine to find a remedy to cure those affected with coronavirus.
He issued these instructions during a meeting with Ministers and officials of Health, Foreign Relations, Tourism and Higher Education held at the Presidential Secretariat.
The first coronavirus victim identified in Sri Lanka is now in stable condition. Sri Lankan doctors were capable of preventing the spread of the disease. The President commended the efforts of everyone who contributed to securing this result and advised them to continue their mission.
He reviewed the steps taken by the committee of experts to prevent the spreading of the disease and to bring back the Sri Lankan students from China.
Instructing officials to provide all the necessary facilities to the students who have returned from Wuhan and ensure their well-being, the President highlighted the importance of taking measures to sustain the tourism industry amidst this global health threat.
He also instructed officials to take steps to enhance facilities available at hospitals.
Ministers Chamal Rajapaksa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Bandula Gunawardena, Arundika Fernando and Pavithra Wanniarachchi, and several Ministry officials were present at the meeting.