ECONOMYNEXT – With Sri Lanka confirming its first Covid19 infection earlier today, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said over 250 Chinese nationals have entered the country since March 7 without being subject to quarantine.
Former JVP MP Vijitha Herath told reporters this morning that the Ministry of Health has decided to quarantine passengers arriving from South Korea, Italy and Iran but for some reason has excluded China, where the novel coronavirus originated.
Herath accused the government of discrimination against Sri Lankan nationals employed abroad who he said send annual remittences of USD 7 billion. (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority data shows that worker remittances from January to November in 2019 totalled USD 6.05 billion).
“These people are a massive source of income to the country and when they come here, how does the BIA welcome them? The government knows in advance the number of arrivals, so there should’ve been a better-coordinated effort to send them to the quarantine centres,” he said.
The former MP also criticised a move to charge a fee of Rs 7,500 from the quarantined Sri Lankans for the provision of food as detailed in a document allegedly distributed among the arrivals. This report was later denied by Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva.
“This is not a military government for the army commander to issue such denials. That’s the health ministry’s job. Was this document false? If so, why have those responsible not been arrested?” said Herath, accusing the government of backtracking.
A Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) official told EconomyNext that 588 people coming out of the BIA have been quarantined so far, a vast majority of whom are Sri Lankan. Three of these are from Iran and 170 are from South Korea, while the rest are all from Italy.
The JVP propaganda secretary said the government has, inexplicably, not taken a policy decision to quarantine arrivals from China.
Ministry of Health National Coordinator for Disaster Preparedness Hemantha Herath told EconomyNext that the reason for not quarantining Chinese arrivals was what he called a significant drop in confirmed cases in mainland China, while cases in the countries listed by the Health Ministry remain “very high”.
Since there is already a lockdown in place in the provinces affected in China, said the ministry official, there is no need to quarantine Chinese nationals arriving from other parts of that country. However, he added, Chinese passengers who do arrive in Sri Lanka are surveilled and routinely monitored during their stay here.SEE ALSO
The JVP is not optimistic. Ex-MP Herath noted with concern that the government is ill-prepared for what could turn out to be a national crisis.
“There could be massive shortages in food and medicine. Are we ready for a possible national crisis? We don’t see the government preparing for such an eventuality. We must forget political differences at this time and come together with a common national agenda at this time. As the JVP, we’re ready for that,” he said. (Colombo/Mar11/2020)