By: Cdr Rajinda Daniel (CMSC 19-1)
As at today, there are 53 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 243 suspected. The first case was a Chinese tourist in January. Once she recovered, there were no cases until 11 Mar when it increased to 53 in just 9 days as many Sri Lankans returned from working in Italy. Mandatory quarantine was instituted for people arriving from abroad, first from EU countries and then from all countries and all arrivals were stopped on 19 Mar. Three days public holiday were declared from 17 Mar and temporary lockdown of areas with many recent travelers from Italy. SLG declared work from home until 27 Mar. The challenges posed are numerous. Direct threat from COVID-19 is health of the people and a lack of health infrastructure, hospital beds, heath equipment, test kits etc. to cater such kind of catastrophe is the main challenge. This necessitates minimizing the infection rate (flattening the curve) so that health system is less overwhelmed. Other threat is economic strain. Tourism and foreign remittance from workers abroad are the major contributors for the economy and both have suffered. SLG declared six months loan payment moratorium. As many depend on these industries, it will take a long time to ease up the burden on the ailing economy. Major exports of tea, spices and products have lost overseas buyers due to close downs and transport closures. Increasing social unrest is a risk due to the poor economic situation and job loss, especially among youth. Subsidizing and other economic packages for people may improve the security and law enforcement in the medium to long run. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard, a maritime law enforcement agency, needs to identify potential threats and challenges and be ready to implement possible solutions.