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In line with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to tackle how the new Coronavirus affects industries and businessmen, the Ceylon Chamber hosted an interactive webinar on COVID-19: Are We Prepared? for its member organisations. Besides, information on the current epidemic and the measures for prevention, personal protection and management, the emphasis was also on getting the workplace ready as prevention measures like social distancing are increasingly being implemented to limit transmission of the virus.

A collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Rotary International, Sri Lanka, the webinar featured Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Paba Palihawadane; National Institute of Infectious Disease Consultant Physician Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama; Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr. Palitha Karunapema; WHO Representative Dr. Razia Pendse; WHO National Professional Officer (Emergency Risk Management) Dr. Sapumal Dhanapala; and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce CEO/ Secretary General Manjula de Silva, with Rotary International Past President K. R. Ravindran, as the moderator.

All speakers stressed on the necessity to prevent the spread of the virus, and to flatten the curve.

“Sri Lanka has sporadic cases, but transmission is spreading. Reducing the number of cases allows the health system to be prepared and not overwhelmed,” Dr. Pendse said. Meanwhile, it is also important for industries and employees to understand that this is the first pandemic in the age of social media – meaning that there is a large amount of misinformation being passed around. What organisations need to do is to focus on getting facts out there, instead of allowing rumours and fear to spread.

“The virus spreads through droplet infections. This will be on your desk, and other things around you, and can stay alive for many hours. It’s important to disinfect your work surfaces -  tables, cellphones, and desk telephones, other frequently used surfaces. It is also important to plan and implement work-from-home wherever possible to safety of our workforce and at the same time ensure business continuity. Social distancing helps slow down transmission as we see in China, Singapore and Republic of Korea.

Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Palihawadana discussed the swift tracking and quarantine measures taken by the health services sector in containing the spread of the virus. All cases, and suspected cases have been followed up, including people the suspected patients were in contact with. Hospital capacity was strengthened by providing training and protective equipment, while the Polonnaruwa base hospital was being prepared for patients from the quarantine centres.

In terms of management, National Institute of Infectious Disease Consultant Physician Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama pointed out that clinical care should focus on early recognition and immediate isolation. Symptoms to look out for included fever, fatigue, dry cough, loss of appetite, body aches, and difficulty in breathing. However, there is no necessity to panic, he said, adding that there is possibility to control the spread of the virus if proper measures are taken.

“As individuals, steps you can take is to wash your hands regularly, be mindful of hygiene, and take measures to minimise the spread of droplets when coughing or sneezing. Avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, and avoid meetings,” he said.