We need to start now to expand testing capacity to open our airports

We have previously explained why we will need in future to test all international arrivals for Covid-19 virus, as well as quarantining them for 14 days. 

The GMOA has called on the President to do this in a letter today. We endorse this call as the most rational option based on the scientific evidence we have right now and the experience in Sri Lanka of what happened in early March. Continue reading

New Zealand becomes the first non-Asian, Western country to adopt Elimination as the Goal

I share this in advance of a proper article on our exit paths that I haven’t had time to finish.

The most successful countries so far have been the East Asian countries which experienced SARS two decades ago. I think this has created a mental block for us in copying them. This is despite them sharing many cultural similarities, and despite the fact that one or two of them are the most similar to us in terms of how they organize their health systems.

New Zealand has now explicitly chosen the goal of Elimination over Mitigation. They are the first and only non-Asian, Western country to have done so. Continue reading

How much COVID testing do we need: (3) Who do we need to test?

We have estimated that Sri Lanka needs to be doing 2,000–6,000 RT-PCR tests a day. We have since learnt that the MOH Epidemiology Unit estimates we need to be doing 5,000 tests a day. This is essentially the same number because our estimates include testing of airport arrivals, and the airport remains closed. We provide here additional explanation of why we need to test specific groups. We will include this in a revised version of the report. In providing this, we emphasize two points.  Continue reading

How much COVID testing do we need: (1) Introduction

9th November 2020 – IMPORTANT UPDATE
These estimates that we prepared in April 2020  were never acted on, so we now need much higher levels of testing  capacity. Please see this explanation. We will do our best to produce updated estimates when we can.

The most urgent need today is for Sri Lanka to increase the rate of testing.The current rate of testing—around 250 tests a day—is completely inadequate. It is far less than other developing countries like Bhutan, Maldives and Viet Nam, which have been able to keep the virus at a low level, and far less than the countries we should be copying like Singapore. Many people are asking us how much we need to test. I am going to post here details of IHP’s initial estimates of the testing capacity that Sri Lanka needs by end of April. Before doing that, a few words. Continue reading

Thank you Brandix for true leadership!

Brandix CEO Ashroff Omar just told his staff that Brandix is making big cuts in executive pay in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Brandix is suspending Mr Omar’s own pay as CEO and that of all Board members for six months, and cutting the pay of all managers by 5 to 60%. Continue reading

COVID-19 crisis will not be over soon – We need to prepare for a long slog

The current lock-down – not only here but affecting two billion people around the world – should make it clear to everyone how serious COVID-19 is. What many still do not appreciate is that closing our ports and even a one month lockdown will not make the problem go away.

Let me be clear first about the good news – we appear on track to control the current surge in cases. So far almost all cases are linked to Sri Lankans returning from foreign travel, and there is little transmission between people in Sri Lanka.

When we get through this lockdown, life will not return to normal for at least the next 12 months. Our political leaders need to explain this, to prepare everyone for a long slog. To adapt the words of Winston Churchill at a similar moment: Defeating the current surge would not be the end. It would not even be the beginning of the end. But it might be, perhaps, the end of the beginning. In the absence of any effort to trust the public with what the long term strategy is, I provide an expert assessment of prospects. Continue reading

Cost benefit analysis supports much more aggressive testing than current MOH strategy

The lockdown (national curfews, work at home, school closures) plus MOH actively tracing contacts of foreign arrivals should work in controlling the current outbreak and could bring new cases down to zero within ten days. There are signs of that happening in the latest data.

MOH’s strategy will work in stopping the spread of the virus, but it is not sufficient and it cannot be sustained. The economy is at a standstill, unemployment will rise, businesses will go bankrupt, living standards will fall, and the government has no revenue. We need to allow businesses and schools to re-open to restart normal life and to get the economy going. Continue reading

India may be failing to detect community transmission of Covid-19 because of inadequate testing

Our graphical vizualisation of the Epidemiology Unit’s data on Covid-19 cases in Sri Lanka attracted attention in India, and I was interviewed by The Hindu, whose article appears here. Continue reading

COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka reach 100

As anticipated, the current surge in cases has pushed the tally of total confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 100, as reported by the Epidemiology Unit, MOH. It is likely that numbers will continue increasing for the next week at least, but it’s a positive sign that the number of new cases has dropped on some days and the trend does not show the explosive rate of increase seen in most other countries.

Government needs to urgently increase investment in expanding testing capacity

We face a long struggle with Covid-19 that will last into 2021. Even if we control the current outbreak, fresh outbreaks will happen unless we completely close our borders for the rest of the year. We must think ahead to how we can maintain air links and continue to function in the face of a continuing threat of imported infections. Vastly increased capacity to test for Covid-19 has to be part of that. It will require a significant investment in equipment, supplies and manpower – billions of rupees, but the economic benefits will outweigh the costs.  Continue reading