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Bridging the Gaps: The COVID-19 crisis and Sri Lanka’s healthcare response



By Priyanka Jayawardena

Like many other countries, Sri Lanka faces numerous challenges in the battle against COVID-19. The pandemic has caused deep uncertainty and presented a colossal challenge for the country’s healthcare system. With the rapid increase in cases and the emergence of new variants, Sri Lanka began to face shortages of medical resources, including hospital beds and medical equipment.

The vaccination programme was beset with a host of problems early on due to the irregular and inconsistent supply of vaccines, disorganised deployment and deviation from the scientifically agreed prioritisation. There was also alleged misreporting of COVID-19 daily statistics in the Gampaha district and Eastern Province. The absence of real-time data acted as a hindrance to obtain a reliable risk assessment in the country. Against this backdrop, this blog examines the gaps in the ongoing pandemic control programme and outlines ways to bridge these gaps so that more lives could be saved from COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

By mid-August 2021, more than 12 million Sri Lankans (55% of the population) had been vaccinated with at least the first dose. Other than the delayed supply of vaccines, there were issues related to getting approval for vaccine use and the vaccination prioritisation process. Moreover, many people were seen queuing up at vaccination centres aggravating health risks due to the lack of a properly planned system for vaccine deployment and the lack of an online appointment system. More recently, the government has taken several measures to improve the rollout, including expediting the procurement process and improving administration with the support of the defence services.

Gaps in Pandemic Control

Sri Lanka’s rate of COVID-19 screening has remained inadequate to prevent the spread of the virus. Systematic surveillance is crucial for the rapid identification and detection of suspected COVID-19 cases. With newer variants found to be more transmissible and deadlier, there is a need to identify mutants and track the nature of transmission. Currently, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura is the only institution equipped with laboratory facilities to conduct genomic sequencing to identify new variants.

Countries like Singapore, New Zealand and Australia systematically monitor the pandemic through extensive testing and contact tracing. These countries are conducting 10-100 times more tests than other countries with a similar number of new confirmed cases. Sri Lanka’s extent of testing relative to the scale of the outbreak (positive rate was around 10%), is on par with Thailand and Malaysia but lower than India, Vietnam and Cambodia where the positive rate is below 5%.

Further, a major challenge to the existing healthcare system is inadequate ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen supplies and other necessities required to care for patients with severe respiratory failure. The availability of ICU capacity plays a crucial role in critical cases, and constant and uninterrupted availability of oxygen supplied beds is needed to avert a disaster. Currently, less than 200 ICU beds are in isolation units for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms, whereas just around 700 ICU beds are available in the hospital system of the entire country.

Equally, it is vital to have timely access to real-time data so that meaningful insights can be drawn but due to capacity constraints and administrative issues, PCR test results are reported to be delayed. In some districts, the delays are said to be longer than one week. Thus, delays in generating test results are a grave concern and represent a major obstacle in the COVID-19 control process. There is a growing need for immediate and accessible healthcare and digital healthcare resources to effectively respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19. However, Sri Lanka’s health information systems are weak and under-funded and the lack of an adequate central health database and IT infrastructure has hampered digital health services.

Towards a Stronger Healthcare Response

The healthcare system has to be streamlined to ensure a successful vaccination deployment and a smooth inoculation programme with online appointments including over the phone appointment facilities. Parallel to an efficient vaccination programme, an enhanced screening capacity is needed for the rapid identification of COVID-19 cases. Sri Lanka’s overall COVID-19 screening capacity remains low; therefore, expanding testing and increasing the health sector’s capacity to identify new mutants is vital to curb the pandemic. Random PCR testing too must be carried out in densely populated areas which are prone to be contagious, thereby taking additional precautionary measures.

There is a growing concern about the availability of medical supplies in emergency contexts. Sri Lanka has to effectively leverage its limited resources in response to the pandemic. The crisis response has seen local innovation in the manufacturing of ICU beds and lab consumables and there is further scope to encourage local enterprise and innovation for this purpose. For instance, a team of Sri Lankan scientists recently invented a new PCR test kit using NANO technology, which is said to drastically reduce the testing time from two hours to half an hour. There is now an opportunity to encourage local innovation and local production through such efforts, where they contribute to efficiency gains.

Furthermore, a robust laboratory strategy, which includes laboratory networking, communicating real-time information on COVID-19, quality assurance and adequate workforce capacity is important for rapid detection and case management. South Korea, for example, practised the disclosure of real-time information on COVID-19 by the government via dedicated websites, mass media, phone messages and mobile apps. Digitalisation of healthcare and effective use of technology for sharing real-time data, contact tracing and surveillance and coordinating the efficient use of clinical resources are vital for successful pandemic control. It is also necessary to improve systems to manage real-time data and decision-support systems. Improved functional integration and coordination in treatment centres and laboratory services bring in many benefits.

*This blog is based on the comprehensive chapter on “Coping with Pandemics: Sri Lanka’s Healthcare System” in IPS’ forthcoming ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2021’ report.

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Priyanka Jayawardena is a Research Economist at the Institute of Policy Studies. Her research interests include education and skills development, labour economics, inequality analysis, health economics and child nutrition. She holds a BSc (Hon) in Statistics and an MA in Economics from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Talk to Priyanka –

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DIMO CERTIFIED guarantees peace of mind for vehicle owners seeking a luxury upgrade



DIMO, one of the leading conglomerates in Sri Lanka, is providing customers who are planning to buy pre-owned luxury vehicles, with speedy, hassle-free, trusted service, through its pre-owned vehicle sales arm ‘DIMO CERTIFIED’.

With the re-launch of DIMO CERTIFIED in 2019, the company has expanded its range of pre-owned vehicles beyond Mercedes-Benz & Jeep models by also offering hand-picked and well-maintained Luxury European vehicle brands registered within the past 10 years, under one roof.

With its 80 year history, DIMO offers unparalleled trust and reliability of expertise in the automotive industry where all vehicles come with a minimum of One Year warranty against unlimited mileage. All vehicles handpicked by DIMO CERTIFIED are guaranteed to have genuine mileage with precise servicing and maintenance since the day of import to the country. Vehicles that are bought from DIMO CERTIFIED are assured of a high resale value due to the comprehensive checks done at the time of purchase for resale and thereafter being refurbished to a standard ‘as Good as New’. In the event the new buyer is selling the vehicle at some point in the future, DIMO CERTIFIED also offers a guaranteed buy back facility.

Customers can avail themselves to attractive Personal Contract Plans with lowest interest rates from some of Sri Lanka’s leading financial institutions where they can drive away in their new Luxury European vehicle by making only a 30% down payment. In the event the buyer decides to upgrade to another vehicle prior to the end of the leasing period, DIMO will also step in to settle the balance payment immediately and extend the opportunity to trade-in for another vehicle of their choice.

The highly-reliable DIMO 24-hour Roadside Assistance provides customers ‘peace of mind’ wherever they travel in their vehicle as expert help during a rare breakdown is only a phone call away.

General Manager – DIMO CERTIFIED Pre-Owned Vehicles of DIMO, Tharanga Gunawardena stated, “We have been able to successfully elevate the pre-owned business to a whole new level through our DIMO CERTIFIED service. We have enhanced our services by adding several attractive features to set the benchmark for the automobile industry. Those who want to realize their aspiration of owning a Mercedes-Benz, Jeep or any other Luxury European vehicle need not look elsewhere.”

All the vehicles available at DIMO CERTIFIED along with special offers are displayed on the website and provides a hassle-free way for prospective buyers to access all key details. Customers are assured of the best prices when purchasing their vehicle while special trade-in options are also available for regular customers. With highly-experienced technical professionals providing the best after-sales service, DIMO CERTIFIED customers can enjoy a hassle-free experience with their Luxury European vehicle. A dedicated WhatsApp number 0771449797 has been made available for customers to contact a Sales Consultant directly to enquire about any product or offer listed on the website.

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Women in Management, IFC and Government of Australia recognise inspiring women from Sri Lanka and Maldives



The ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 – hosted by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC and the government of Australia – recently honoured inspiring professional and career women in Sri Lanka and Maldives making a mark in their respective fields.

The 11th edition of the awards ceremony celebrated women representing a wide array of professions from industries including hospitality, banking and finance, logistics and supply chains, entrepreneurship, and media and law, among others, for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community. The awards also lauded Sri Lankan corporates that have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.

Top awards were conferred to Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy (Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year), Prof. Nadira Karunaweera (Inspirational Woman of the Year), Aruni Goonetilleke (Trail Blazer), Randhula De Silva (Game Changer of the Year) and Dr. Vajira Chithrasena (Judges Award). The full list of awardees is listed below.

“The 2021 awards are a celebration of resilience, optimism, hard work and growth. As we step into a third year of a pandemic, this year’s winners remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that can exist in adversity,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “They also remind us of the extraordinary potential women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are capable of, especially in challenging the status-quo for greater good. Women are often hesitant to take their spot in the limelight, but over the past decade, the Top50 Awards have created a platform helping them showcase their talents and achievements, and importantly to inspire others.”

With over 470 past award winners, the ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards aim to showcase the significant role women play as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

Marking IFC’s seventh consecutive year in co-hosting the event, Victor Antonypillai, Acting Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, that “To ensure a resilient recovery, the path should be gender inclusive – women should be at the heart of the path to recovery. We need to ‘build forward fairer’ for economies and societies to build back better.” Supported through the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this year’s Top50 Awards aims to showcase the resilient leadership Sri Lankan women have shown, amid a pandemic.

Also, speaking at the event, David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives remarked that, “Over the years, the ‘Top50’ Awards have shown the power of women in business inspiring many others in leadership and in society more generally. The 2022 Awards are a tribute to the resilience of Sri Lankan women, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 were powered by Dialog, along with Gold Sponsors Salota International and Singer. Silver sponsors for the awards included Lanka IOC, Unilever, Vision Care and Aitken Spence. Maliban and Sampath Bank were also sponsors of the event, and the gifting Partner for the award ceremony was New Vivya.

Speaking of the award winners, Nadija Tambiah, Head of Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Holdings and Chair of 2021 Judging Panel, said that the “quality of the women who were nominated or who applied this year was impressive. We were forced not only to look at the accomplishments of these women in their chosen vocations but also what impact they have had in the industry and what they have done for women in their organisations.”

This year’s Judging Panel—chaired by Nadija Tambiah—included Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd; Kishu Gomes, Group MD/CEO of Dreamron Group of Companies; Nisthar Cassim, Founding Editor and CEO of Daily FT; Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan; Sandra De Zoysa, Group Chief Customer Officer at Dialog Axiata PLC; Sandya Salgado, Strategic Marketing Professional; Santosh Menon, CEO of KL.LK; Amanda Jewell, Acting Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka; and Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for Women in Work at IFC.

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Chrissworld engages CDS for registrar services



Central Depositary Systems (Pvt) Ltd (CDS), a fully owned subsidiary of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), has strengthened its client base for the provision of registrar services with the addition of Chrissworld PLC. The CDS will provide the listed company with a variety of services such as share ledger maintenance, virtual AGM’s and all types of corporate actions. The CDS plays a role in driving innovation and offering cost effective solutions with value additions.

Speaking at the development, the CEO of the CSE, Mr. Rajeeva Bandaranaike, said, “We welcome Chrissworld PLC to the CDS portfolio. The CDS is uniquely positioned to offer value added Registrar services to listed entities in Sri Lanka, and the CDS is very confident that Chrissworld PLC will fully benefit from the services provided .”

Chairman of Chrissworld PLC, Mr. Christopher Perera stated, “We are very pleased to sign this agreement with the CDS as the registrar. The process of working with the CDS has been a rewarding experience for Chrissworld PLC, and going forward, we are confident that there will be excellent co-operation between the two companies and that the CDS will efficiently manage all our affairs. “

Chrissworld PLC was founded in 2013 and provides third-party logistics services specializing in warehousing, inventory management, distribution, and transportation. The company was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange on May 18th, 2021, the first ever company to be listed on the Empower Board.

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