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Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response: saving lives today, preparing for tomorrow

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On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Sri Lanka was extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus because of its thriving tourism industry and large expatriate population. The first case was detected on January 27, 2020 and the first Sri Lankan national tested positive for COVID-19 on March 10, 2020. In response, the government of Sri Lanka rapidly introduced measures to curb the spread of the disease and imposed a strict island-wide lock-down on March 16, 2020. Infected patients were treated in secure environments, testing and contact tracing efforts were quickly escalated, and awareness raising campaigns on risk and prevention measures were implemented. Already facing fiscal constraints, the pandemic placed additional resource demands on the country. The challenge was to quickly coordinate the mobilization of financial, technical and procurement support to contain the pandemic.

Approach

Within this context, the World Bank responded quickly, leveraging the dedicated COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility, to mobilize resources and prepare the project in just 10 working days. Recognizing the limited availability of the health authorities for separate detailed design discussions, strategies and project priorities were built on gaps and needs outlined in the Health Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery plan that was being developed by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and development partners including WHO, World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), among others. This approach allowed for swift preparation, while ensuring coordinated financing support by multiple partners. Bank financing was used to fill resource gaps and to supplement and scale up Sri Lanka’s pandemic management strategy.

The project adopted a flexible approach to respond to urgent health needs, enabling reimbursement for routine goods and operating expenditures for facilities that were engaged in the COVID-19 response. This helped identified facilities to quickly upgrade their wards to make them COVID-ready. Flexibility to use ongoing government procurement methods (adopting the principles of advance procurement) were provided for the first three months following project signing.

Activities were also initiated to strengthen the National Emergency Operation Unit and its island wide network. For better preparedness, selected hospitals are now being developed as medical centers for current and future pandemic situations, and the existing laboratory system is being strengthened. The project is also helping to develop the country’s infection control and surveillance systems and supporting epidemiological studies on the patterns of transmission, and on community response and behavior. This research will underpin long-term plans and strategies on pandemic management.

The World Bank also provided additional financial resources in the form of cash transfers to high-risk populations including the elderly and disabled and patients with chronic diseases. This social sector response was in addition to the health sector response to manage vulnerabilities that emerged due to COVID-19.

The project will also strengthen mental health services and services for victims of gender-based violence (GBV) at the community level especially during emergency situations. These activities will be implemented with support of a grant from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF).

Results

Within six months of project implementation, World Bank financing—both through the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)—has contributed to the following results between March and October 2020:

As of October 1, 2020, there were a total of 3,380 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka, with 3,233 fully recovered and 13 deaths. The spread of COVID-19 has been limited to 18 out of 26 districts in the country, with 8 districts having no reported cases. Even among the 18 districts with COVID-19 cases, the caseload is concentrated in 6 districts, with the majority of cases in the district of Colombo, the capital city. In the remaining 12 districts there are fewer than 10 cases per district. This relatively low COVID-19 morbidity and mortality number reflects the government’s strong and rapid response and effective implementation of the ‘test, track, isolate and treat’ strategy supported through this project.

300,000 units of PPE have been procured and delivered, along with essential medical consumables (‘treat’); 32 quarantine centers are up and running across country (‘isolate’); and 250,000 PCR test kits have been procured through the project, facilitating testing randomly at outpatient departments, in community settings and at ports of entry (‘test’).

805 public health inspectors have been provided with motor bikes to travel to conduct contact tracing; and double cabs (pick-up trucks) have been provided to 25 offices of the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) to enhance grassroots community outreach (‘track’).

Plans for transforming select hospitals into 9 provincial case management centers and 25 district level suspected case management centers covering all parts of the country are underway. The preliminary design stage has been completed and site inspections are currently ongoing. The centres are expected to be refurbished with dedicated isolation wards, robust infection control and waste management systems and upgraded laboratory facilities.

Preliminary work on establishing a Bio Safety Level 3 laboratory at the Medical Research Institute (MRI) has been initiated.

699,915 vulnerable populations, which include the elderly, disabled and those with chronic kidney disease from low income households benefited from social cash transfers in the months of April and May 2020.

Bank Group contribution

The World Bank has provided $217.56 million in financing for the project. This includes a $35 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), $180.84 million from the International Development Association (IDA), and a grant of $1.72 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF).

Partners

Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 management strategy is led by the Ministry of Health, and is being implemented with support from a network of development partners including WHO, UNICEF and other United Nations agencies. The Bank has actively participated in the Emergency Health Cluster meetings, chaired by the WHO, and is also Co-Chair of the Health Development Partner Working Group, which will be coordinating the medium- to long-term plans for health preparedness. UNICEF has also been contracted under the project to support the Ministry of Health in the procurement of essential medical consumables and PPEs. The regular dialogue and coordination with the partner network has helped prevent duplication and has enabled the Bank to identify the gaps in the country’s emergency response strategy and to address these gaps through the project. This is strengthened by the close working relationship with the Ministry of Health, established through the previous and ongoing projects including the Primary Health Care Systems Strengthening Project (PSSP).

Since 2004, the World Bank has funded two major health sector development projects in Sri Lanka, aimed at strengthening the health system service delivery, and quality of care, improving emergency treatment unit facilities, and preparing the system to respond to emerging health challenges. These investments have helped to strengthen the health service delivery network, which has been the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response strategy. Moving forward, the project will continue to develop emergency health care services at the secondary and tertiary levels, in line with national strategies and priorities, and will build capacities and establish emergency response systems, mechanisms and facilities that will benefit the population of Sri Lanka in years to come.

The activities will also complement the work being carried out under the ongoing Bank-funded PSSP project, which aims to strengthen healthcare service delivery at the primary care level. The COVID-19 project addresses health facilities beyond the primary care level, and in this way will support the continuum of care and overall health sector development plans financed by the government and the development partner network.

Beneficiaries

The project has benefited the entire population of Sri Lanka by supporting the emergency response, contributing to saving lives. While infected people, medical and emergency personnel and service providers, and high risk populations, such as the elderly, disabled and chronic kidney disease patients from low income households have benefited in particular; through population based preventive measures, the project has touched the lives of everyone in Sri Lanka. Further, by focusing on strengthening the capacity of the public health system throughout the country for future pandemic preparedness, it will continue to benefit the people of Sri Lanka.

English Brief : https://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2020/10/21/sri-lanka-covid-19-response-saving-lives-today-preparing-for-tomorrow

Sinhala Brief : https://www.worldbank.org/si/results/2020/10/21/sri-lanka-covid-19-response-saving-lives-today-preparing-for-tomorrow

Tamil Brief : https://www.worldbank.org/ta/results/2020/10/21/sri-lanka-covid-19-response-saving-lives-today-preparing-for-tomorrow



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AkzoNobel honours students of City School of Architecture at Colour Awards 2021-2022

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– Annual design competition celebrates young design talent for fourth year running

AkzoNobel Paints Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., in partnership with the City School of Architecture (CSA), honoured the winners of the Colour Awards 2021-2022 at the CSA Graduation & Awards Ceremony held recently at the BMICH.

A partnership initiated four years ago by the producer of Dulux paints in Sri Lanka, the annual competition hopes to raise the bar of design and innovation standards and encourage young creative talent as important future players in a fast-evolving industry.

Every year the prize invites first year students from the City School of Architecture to face a new colour and architecture-themed design challenge. After several mentoring sessions by the academic staff of CSA -namely Archt. Nela de Zoyza, Archt. Anurangi Mendis, and Archt. Shayan Kumaradas-, participants are then required to produce a final submission and present it to a high-profile selection committee.

This year, each submission was reviewed by a star-studded panel of industry specialists, including Mr. Romesh de Silva, Ms. Charmaine Mendis, Archt. Shevanthi Basnayake, Archt. Kosala Weerasekera, Archt. Rehan Thillakeratne, and Archt Nandika Denipitiya, together with the Managing Director of AkzoNobel Paints in Sri Lanka, Mr. Wasantha Heenatigala.

Following a rigorous judging process, the five most impressive submissions were chosen, with winners being conferred a generous cash reward, as well the prestige of having being recognized by the pioneers of the paint manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka and the world.

Speaking at this year’s ceremony, Upendra Gunawardhana, Head of Marketing of AkzoNobel Sri Lanka commented, “As a leading global paints and coating company, we are convinced that in helping develop and highlight emerging talent, we are also playing a crucial role in shaping the future of the industry. With the Colour Awards we hope to provide a platform through which university students can hone their design thinking skills on an industry level, while at the same time also consistently set benchmarks of innovation for the years to come.”

“Over the years AkzoNobel has played a significant role in supporting the educational growth and creative development of our students through its Colour Awards,” said Archt. Professor Lal Balasuriya, Head of School of the City School of Architecture. “Here, young design aspirants are given the chance to test the limits of both, their creative ingenuity and industry acumen, and we’re sincerely grateful to AkzoNobel for this transformative opportunity.”

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Emirates and Dilmah Tea celebrate 30 years of partnership

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Dubai, UAE, May 2022 – Emirates and Dilmah Tea have enjoyed a longstanding partnership of brewing the finest teas on board and in Emirates’ airport lounges around the world for the past 30 years. To mark the milestone on International Tea Day, all Emirates’ passengers received a special tea box when they flew from Dubai a few days ago.

 In addition, First Class passengers on flights to the UK were treated to a food pairing, while passengers in the Emirates’ Onboard Lounge were offered Dilmah Tea infused mocktails. The special tea pack for all passengers who flew on Saturday contained three different flavours: Ceylon Breakfast, an Emirates exclusive Turmeric Coconut and Vanilla tea, and the popular Earl Grey with Honey.

 In First Class, Emirates offered the Brilliant Breakfast, one of the many gourmet teas created by passionate Tea Maker and Dilmah founder, Merrill J. Fernando. This was paired with the afternoon tea service on board.

 Moroccan Mint Green tea was exquisitely paired alongside Labneh – a tangy and creamy yoghurt – with roast vegetables for vegetarians. While Dilmah’s Sench Green Extra Special tea – renowned for its delicate taste with herbal finish with a touch of sweetness –  was served with sushi, particularly seafood.

 “Emirates focuses on dishes that emphasise fresh ingredients of the highest quality. We pay special attention to every detail and the quality of the tea we offer our customers is no different. The fact that we have served Dilmah Tea for 30 years across all our cabins is proof of its quality and our satisfaction with the perfect cup of tea.

“We have an exceptional partnership with Dilmah and we have grown in tandem for the last 30 years. Over 9.6 million tea bags are used each year across our fleet with more than 10 tea varieties on offer, including an exclusive Emirates Signature Tea served in First Class,” said Thomas Ney, DSVP, Service Delivery at Emirates.

 Dilhan C. Fernando, son of Dilmah Founder and CEO of the family company explained: “For 30 years we have grown a tea inspired collaboration with Emirates, offering customers a uniquely Emirates experience in tea. To celebrate the Pearl Anniversary of our partnership in tea, we made a tea that is as rare as it is magnificent. A seasonal tea with extraordinary finesse, handpicked from tea bushes prepared for months and crafted into a numbered limited-edition tea.

“Our co-operation with Emirates truly presents the luxury in fine tea, and – in our tea mocktails and food pairings – contemporary, tea inspired hospitality. For the last 30 years we have created these unique moments for Emirates customers either on the ground, in its lounges around the world, or at 40,000 feet and this year is no different. We are excited to have the special 30-year blend on board Emirates’ fleet.”

A world-class partnership

Millions of world class cups of tea have been poured for Emirates’ customers since the airline’s partnership with Dilmah began in 1992.

The airline brings the finest products on board through long standing partnerships worldwide, including support for local suppliers and artisans. Emirates takes the Dilmah brand to more than 130 destinations on six continents.

 The teas offered on Emirates are chosen by popularity amongst customers, catering to different preferences like minty or citrus infusions as well as by looking at tea drinking trends. With an increasing focus on wellness amongst customers, the airline recently introduced a new tea in its airport lounges – Turmeric, coconut and vanilla featuring antioxidant properties.

 On board, the most popular tea in Economy Class is the Dilmah Ceylon Black Tea while passengers in First and Business Class favour Moroccan Mint and Breakfast Tea. Emirates serves a selection of six teas in Business Class and its airport lounges, and a further six teas in First Class.

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Wing Commander (Retd.) D. Pradeep S. Kannangara elected president, Industrial Security Foundation

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The Industrial Security Foundation (ISF) which acts as the sole organization in Sri Lanka to represent the Private Security industry having incorporated by an Act passed in the Parliament, Act No. 51 of 1999, elected Wing Commander (Retd.) Pradeep Kannangara as its President for the years 2022/2023 at its 30th annual General Meeting which was held at the PIM Auditorium in Borella. Wing Commander Pradeep Kannangara was appointed President while 14 other members were appointed to the Executive Committee, strengthening the ISF in order to drive and uplift the standards of the private security industry in Sri Lanka.

He has served on the ExCo consecutively since 2012 under four different presidents where he held the positions of Senior Vice President during the last three consecutive years. He has also been a committed member of the ISF and was awarded prestigious coveted FISF title due to his many valuable contributions to the organization and the Private Security Industry in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Wing Commander Kannangara’s journey into private security began after a successful career in the Sri Lanka Air Force for over 24 years where he served in many capacities finally being the Officer Commanding of the Special Air Borne Force. A recipient of the Ranasura Padakkama (RSP) Gallantry award for his bravery, sacrifices and service to the nation by the President of the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in 1990. He holds a Master’s in business management from the Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia too and serves as a Board Director in AB Securitas (Private) Limited in Sri Lanka and AB Securitas Bangladesh Limited.

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