Crisis Updates from the Region

Crisis Updates from the Region2020-07-23T09:02:21-10:00

Update from Sri Lanka

By Admiral Jayanath Colombage

With a total population of 22 million and a land area of 65000 square km, the island of Sri Lanka was monitoring the developing situation regarding the spread of Coronavirus, or Covid -19. The President immediately established a National Action Committee to implement health measures to prevent the spread of deadly Coronavirus in Sri Lanka. This was one of the first in our region and done on January 26, 2020 when the news of the virus spreading in Wuhan in China came to light. These preemptive measures were established well ahead of our region being impacted by the Coronavirus.

The Action Committee consisted of the Minister of Health as the chair, secretaries of health, defence and officials from Governor of Western Province, Presidential secretariat, Ministry of Health, specialist doctors such as epidemiologists, virologists, Members of Government Medical Officers Association, Scientists- microbiology and nano technology, Airport Aviation, Ports Authority, Department of Immigration and Emigration,  Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

The immediate task of this Action Committee was to commence health surveillance at airports, seaports and fisheries. On January 27, 2020, the first case of the Coronavirus was detected in Sri Lanka. It was a lady from China’s city of Wuhan and hospitalized in Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH). This lady was released on February 14, 2020 after getting completely cured and sent back to China. Twelve hospitals were declared as suitable for caring of possible Coronavirus affected cases across the country. The developing situation was closely monitored and analysed in the world whilst maintaining medical surveillance at our airports, seaports and fisheries ports. Many scientists, microbiologists in R&D, worked to manufacture PPEs in Sri Lanka and to develop ventilator machines to provide oxygen. Currently, the number of positive Corona cases has risen to 53. There are a number of Quarantine centres, which accommodate about 2000 people who have returned from high-risk areas such as Italy, South Korea. The situation is being monitored and appropriate steps taken to prevent further spread of the virus.

The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of DKI APCSS, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
May 2020

2020-06-09T15:40:59-10:00June 9th, 2020|0 Comments

Solomon Islands Coast Watchers 20/20 Program

By Joseph Manelugu

The Royal Solomon Island Police Force is working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and stakeholders to fight against the current spread of COVID-19. We are concentrating on blocking our western border with Bougainville, which is the eastern-most island chain of Papua New Guinea. As an Assistant Commissioner for Provincial policing, I have been appointed as the commander for border operations.

With assistance from a New Zealand advisor, we initiated a program called COAST WATCHERS 20/20. The purpose of this program is to work together with stakeholders and communities to watch our coasts for incoming foreign vessels, boats, yachts, and ships and to communicate to the nearest police stations or other law enforcement agencies so that they can take appropriate action.

Dealing with communities can sometimes be difficult, especially getting them to participate fully on certain unfamiliar requirements. We are thus communicating with all communities and islands in the country and are informing them of the program and the reasons why they should provide their support. We are asking citizens to work as volunteer coast watchers, looking out for foreign boats, keeping a close eye on all vessels coming into the country and reporting back to law enforcement agencies.

The Coast Watchers program is not entirely new to Solomon Islands and has a long history here. During the second World War, Americans and local coast-watcher Solomon Islanders communicated well with each other as they reported sightings of enemies approaching certain locations in the country.

Today, we are combating COVID-19 by preventing its entry to Solomon Island through our borders. So far, we have been successful and Solomon Island is still free from COVID-19.

Joseph Manelugu
Assistant Police Commissioner Provincial

2020-05-18T16:18:57-10:00May 18th, 2020|0 Comments

Arrival of COVID-19 in Myanmar

By: Professor Chaw Chaw Sein, Ph.D. (CSRT 18-1)

During my life time, I have personally experienced several massive political crises, such as 1988 students’ uprising which began at the University of Yangon where I now teach, the “Saffron Revolution” initiated by Buddhist monks for democratization in 2007, and of course, the on-going ethnic armed conflicts. I had lived through crises created by mother-nature such as Cyclone Nargis of 2008 and the major floods/landslides of 2015. During the outbreaks of SARS and H1N1, Myanmar was not spared and today it has become the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of our history, Myanmar people are used to coping and living with both natural and man-made crises. I must say we are incredibly resilient and now will be tested again with COVID-19.

For a while, we optimistically thought Myanmar might be spared from this disease. As the world turned red with the virus infection, the people and government of Myanmar went about their normal business until March 23 at 23:45 when the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports announced that they now had two patients testing positive with COVID-19. The authority came to discover that these two patients were overseas travelers who had been mingling within the community for some time. We woke up to the reality of the new world on that date. Even up to the March 23, our university went about administering exams for the first semester (which was scheduled for March 18-23) of our academic year. All of that changed on the 23rd. To borrow a famous quote from the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 23rd of March 2020 will be the “day of infamy” for Myanmar as this horrendous pandemic reached the Myanmar shores.

Impact of COVID-19 Arrival
Immediately on March 24, all exams were suspended and postponed. Ministry of Education shut down all universities in Myanmar with no exact date for re-opening since they had no idea of how long it would take to combat the virus. Since the discovery of the first two patients in Myanmar, the country has been dealing with the side-effects in addition to the health emergency as the government […]

2020-04-10T16:59:12-10:00April 10th, 2020|0 Comments

 Maldives Battles COVID-19

By:  Hassan Amir (CA 17-1 SSD in the Indian Ocean WS)

Maldives reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Mar. 7, when foreign tourists who had been vacationing in Maldives became symptomatic. Since the initial case was reported, we have had 19 confirmed cases by Apr. 5. This includes three locals who had been under quarantine upon returning from United Kingdom. There have not been any COVID-19 related deaths, and 13 patients have fully recovered.

With the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, Maldives started taking decisive steps to prepare for the public health crisis. The Ministry of Health convened the multi-agency Health Emergency Coordinating Committee (HECC) and a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) comprised of health professionals to advise the government on necessary preventive and mitigation measures. In early March, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) took over coordinating the whole of government effort. A COVID-19 National Emergency Centre (NEOC) was established, and national agencies engaged in public health, logistical support, tourism, law enforcement and local governance are fully engaged in executing inter-agency plans.

Despite the economic impact of imposing travel restrictions, Maldives banned all arrivals from China starting Feb. 4. Since then, there has been travel restrictions imposed on arrivals from other countries as the situation unfolded in Europe and elsewhere. Starting from Mar. 27, issue of on-arrival visa was suspended. At present, only essential flights are allowed to land, and locals returning to Maldives are placed under quarantine.

The national effort undertaken by the NEOC against the spread of COVID-19 at present can be broadly divided into four major lines of effort (LoE). They are (1) Information Management, Public Messaging and Risk Communication, (2) Health Response, (3) Community Support Operations and (4) Law Enforcement Operations. Public information on infection prevention and control, hygiene and procedures for reporting of cases and preventive and control measures are centrally coordinated through the NEOC, and disseminated through the government COVID-19 spokesperson, and on social media and other public messaging platforms.

Health response broadly covers the actions of the Rapid Response Teams dispatched to collect samples or isolate symptomatic cases once a call is received at the central COVID-19 call center. Testing […]

2020-04-10T16:55:22-10:00April 10th, 2020|0 Comments

We Call it Panic, The World Calls It Preparedness

By: Shazia Haris

In a crisis, no one person is Aristotle, and it’s OK to build a team and learn. That is how we convert adversity into opportunity.

It was a warm day of July 2015 in Hawaii, when we Fellows of the Crisis Management Course at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) role-played, handling a health epidemic with potential to be pandemic in South Asia.  To our utter surprise we as crisis managers had to communicate with Border Control Forces, the Health Minister, National Security Officers, the Police, the Fire Department, the Finance Ministry, the Military officials of the affected country and its neighbors, and above all the Prime Minister along with his bureaucracy, and the border security of neighborly countries. “What the heck had we to do with all these stiff collar people,” we thought. We were the national crisis management team to deal with crisis-specific issues only, but now with COVID-19 termed a pandemic by the WHO, it all seems so true!

The role-play crisis game opened avenues unknown to us, making us realize how close-knitted disaster management is to human and international security.  We realized that making consented decisions an all-inclusive approach taking all stakeholders on board, is the answer to hindrances, both human and situational in crises.  At the policymaking level, understanding the importance of information dissemination and risk communication as a safety weapon, like a missile in war, is absolutely vital.

The first coronavirus case was reported on February 26 in Karachi. The evidence suggests that the source was imported, not indigenous, and now we have reports of cases being transmitted within communities. This is alarming as it affects economic viability and inability to earn a living might be a precipitating factor for political unrest starting from the lowest income earning population. Today, with infected cases over 2,400, Pakistan needs to realize that the earthquake in 2005 was an eye-opener for the world as a whole, but as it was restricted to Pakistan, the world rushed for help. COVID -19 has affected the whole world, made health systems collapse and left corpses to pick so the international help scenario […]

2020-04-10T16:45:31-10:00April 3rd, 2020|1 Comment

Response to COVID-19 in South Asia

By: Binoj Basnyat (ASC 11-2)

The world has become more unpredictable with the COVID-19 pandemic and the losses it is causing. Nation states focus on their measures and regional intergovernmental organizations look for collective efforts while the World Health Organization vigorously works to provide answers. Whether interagency, political level of governance, bilateral, multilateral or global; rapid action and cooperation and coordination are the key to tackle and control COVID-19.

Indian PM Modi asked the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to face the pandemic challenge. The SAARC leaders’ virtual interaction provided information on measures and internal preparedness as well as an opportunity to collectively move forward with cooperation and coordination. Unfortunately, Heads of State missed the opportunity to communicate country strategies and propose regional procedures to mitigate both direct and indirect affects at the strategic level. SAARC leaders are looking for a model to face the pandemic that can act as an extraordinary example. This could lead to formulating other models for collaborative and collective efforts on common challenges in regional security.

Although Nepal only has 6 cases, the WHO has put it in the high-risk category for its potential to be affected. Nepal quarantined itself and suspended visa-on-arrival and imports of edible items from China. Land crossing points with India and China have been reduced and tourist arrivals by air to Nepal are minimal. Chinese tourist arrival was expected to reach 350,000 in 2020 but stopped and all hotels are empty. The Asian Development Bank estimates that Nepal is likely to shave off up to 13% of its gross domestic product and lose 15,880 jobs. The Nepalese Army successfully quarantined evacuated Nepalese from China, but more is on the way to be prepared with preventive, preparation and post eventualities. National security will be at risk if cooperation between Health, Finance, Diplomacy, Defense, Law Enforcement Forces and Intelligence Agency’s does not prevail.

The need to move swiftly to reduce transmission with policies is the remedy. Deep engagement is needed with individuals, families and the community. The adoption of proven strategies by nation states, geographic regions and inter-continental is essential. It is time to look into the national security and […]

2020-04-06T09:10:58-10:00April 1st, 2020|0 Comments
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