We get it. There's a ton of stuff flying around on WhatsApp, and you're tired of seeing stuff you're uncertain about.
In this time of COVID-19, it's best to keep an eye on official Sri Lankan government sources - particularly those related to the Ministry of Health. Without further ado, here's the list of sources we track (so you can do this too):
1) The Health Promotion Bureau:
The HPB's new website is marvelous. It'll show you cases and how many there are at the hospitals testing them, symptoms, preventative methods, and contains a helpful link to various hotlines. An alternative in Sinhala is http://coronavirus.lk/, run by the Newsfirst people.
2) The Department of Government Information
The DGI runs two websites. We've noticed that they get updated significantly slower than the press releases that these folks deliver to reporters and media organizations, but these are useful when verifying information, particularly the press releases section on dgi.gov.lk.
3) The Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health
The Epid Unit, which is the beating heart of COVID-19 ops. They provide a regularly updated list of protocols and guidelines, most of which are targeted at professional organizations, such as hospitals. If you want to know, for example, what the protocols various regional directors of health services have been given, or what private hospitals are allowed to do or not, this is where you get that information. They also maintain a Google Map of cases.
4) The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Global Tracker
One of the first maps to appear is still one of the best. Johns Hopkins pulls data from the WHO, CDC, ECDC, NHC and DXY and local media reports - not just infections, but also recoveries data. Sometimes, it takes some time to update and local levels, but it's one of the best ways of getting a global overview.
5) What precautions do I take?
Your religious practices or your alma mater do not make you immune. Follow the WHO guidelines (which we've added below, with a few tips of our own):
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This means avoid crowding and don't walk right up to other people in lines. It's annoying in the best of times, but now it just got extra.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick. This is especially critical if you touch surfaces that have been used by lots of others (say, public transport).
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Don't be like those idiots who flee in a panic.
6) Where does the testing for COVID-19 happen in Sri Lanka?
- National Institute of Infectious Diseases
- National Hospital of Sri Lanka
- Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children
- Castle Street Hospital for Women
- Base Hospital Mulleriyawa
- North Colombo Teaching Hospital
- District General Hospitals Negombo
- District General Hospitals Gampaha
- Teaching Hospital Ratnapura
- National Hospital Kandy
- Teaching Hospital Batticaloa
- Provincial General Hospital Kurunegala
- Provincial General Hospital Badulla
- Karapitiya National Hospital
- District General Hospital Hambantota
- Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital
- Jaffna Teaching Hospital
Source: Epidemiology unit - this is why we say you should keep tabs on their site; it's a goldmine of good info. Remember that if you're getting tested from a private hospital, the price is supposed to be Rs 6000, as per the latest update from the DG of Health.
7) How do I self-quarantine?
The Epidemiology Unit has published guidelines (PDF) on how to quarantine in non-health care settings. We're going to replicate parts of it here for easier reading:
- Allocate a separate room with adequate ventilation at home if possible and household members should stay in another room.
- Maintain at least one meter distance from family members.
- Preferably, household members should use a separate bathroom. But, if sharing the same bathroom, cleaning of taps, doorknobs and utensils with soap and water are a requirement.
- Minimize visitors to home and returnee should not face any visitors.
- Frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time and maintain alcohol based hand hygiene in instances where hand washing facilities are inadequate
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Home quarantined person is expected to monitor body temperature using a thermometer twice a day. If there is fever , cough, difficulty in breathing, sore throat, body aches and pain, including flue like symptoms, immediately inform MOH / PHI of the area immediately.
- The disposable facemasks and gloves after use should be properly discarded without reuse, preferably in a closed container
- Assign separate dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, and other items for the quarantined person.
- Used utensils, bed linen and clothes should be washed with soap and water
8) Added notes for those self-monitoring under active public health supervision
- MOH assigns a Public Health Inspector (PHI) for monitoring of quarantined persons.
- PHI also will check their health status daily by visiting, by a telephone inquiry, SMS throughout the quarantine 14 days’ period. (One of us is already going through this process: it's fairly swift and painless).
- In case of a person with signs and symptoms, PHI should immediately inform the MOH and the Regional Epidemiologist.
- Transportation of suspected patient is arranged through “1990 on-call ambulance (Suwaseriya) service” to the nearest government hospital or to the designated hospitals
- Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) and Provincial Director of Health Services (PDHS) provides support in administrative activities and Provincial / District Consultant Community Physicians (CCP) and Regional Epidemiologist are providing technical support.