Sri Lanka has been able to control the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively even with modest means than more resourced countries, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr. Razia Pendse said.
She told the media on Thursday evening that Sri Lanka, fortunately, had been one of the few countries with even modest means that has been able to control the epidemic more effectively than the even more resourced countries.
Dr. Pendse said this was thanks to well established public health system, especially the communicable disease surveillance and the proactive action that has been taken by the government.
“The response in Sri Lanka has been guided by public health and science and this has helped in setting up all that was required very early on in the pandemic to set up the surveillance system to ramp up the testing capacity and to search capacity at hospitals in case more people were affected. Later on, when there were repatriations, setting up of quarantine facilities also helped in early diagnosing and managing the pandemic while ensuring that the capacity of the health systems were not overwhelmed. I must say that in the pandemic the role of other sectors have also been critical, so it was truly a whole of society and a whole of government approach. Community engagement has been critical because without involvement of communities it is difficult to control the spread of the virus,” she said.
Commenting on a possible COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Pendse said everyone is looking forward to having a vaccine and that there have been lot of research and development.
“Currently, there are almost 160 candidate vaccines of which 23 are already in clinical trials and of those 15 candidate vaccines are in phase three clinical trials. That means they have moved on into human trials. We hope we would be having a candidate vaccine that is effective and safe very soon,” she said.
Dr. Pendse said one must realize that development of vaccine generally takes years but for the COVID-19, the WHO is working with partners to fast track the research and development into vaccines.
“This doesn't mean we are compromising on quality. We hope we will be able to have the vaccine but more important than the development of the vaccine is to ensure that we have the supply chain and distribution so that everyone who needs the vaccine has access to it. For that, the WHO is working with partners to more equitable distribution of these vaccines when they become available,” she said.
Dr. Pendse said we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no ‘quick when’ to ending the pandemic.
“It requires all of us to play our role as public health workers and as the public to keep loved ones safe. There is no fast track back to normal. All of us have to work together. The way we behave determines how the virus behaves,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said false news and misinformation on social media plus rumours hamper the COVID-19 response.
“Right information should be given to the people to end rumours and to defeat the virus. If we take all comprehensive measures that are required, we will be able to contain the spread of the virus,” Dr. Pendse said. (Lahiru Pothmulla)