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Prior announcement of National Conference by NSF on “COVID-19: Impact, Mitigation, Opportunities and Building Resilience” in January, 2021 under the theme “From Adversity to Serendipity”

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Epidemics and pandemics have a long history dating back to at least 2000 BC and they have had a profound impact on human beings and their history throughout the ages. Spanish Flu (1918), SARS (2002), MERS (2012), Ebola (2014) and COVID-19 (2019) clearly stand out as virus pandemics in the 20th and 21st centuries. The global mortality rate of COVID-19 thus far amounts to around 6%, which is much lower than those of SARS (≈10%), MERS (≈35%) and Ebola (≈50%). Though the fatality rate of COVID-19 is less that of the other pandemics referred to above, it is more highly infectious than the others.For instance, SARS in 2002-2003  took six months  to exceed 5,000 cases  in mainland China whereas  COVID-19 did that in just one month.It took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only 12 days to reach the next 100,000, demonstrating that that the speed of transmission rapidly increases over time.

COVID-19 differs from other pandemics in terms of the infectious period, transmissibility, clinical severity and the extent of community spread. Therefore, the Government promptly took the requisite containment measures, ranging from preventive ones, such as imposition of lockdown and curfew, isolation, contact tracing, hygienic practices, and physical distancing to clinical, including diagnostic and therapeutic, measures. These interventions were reinforced by tri-forces as appropriate which contributed immensely in checking the spread of the pandemic.

When compared with many developed countries in the world, Sri Lanka has made great strides in combating COVID-19 and keeping the mortality rate low. For instance, the case fatality rate (ratio of confirmed deaths to confirmed cases) thus far observed in Sri Lanka is only about 0.6% as against 19.1 % in France, 14.3% in Italy, 7.8% in Canada, 5.6% in China, 4.1% in Cuba, 2.9% in India and 2.4% in S. Korea, with a global average of 6.2% (Europe CDC, 2020). 

Therefore, the achievements of Sri Lanka are truly commendable in a global context. These were made possible by  a combination of the relevant authorities fulfilling their mission with dedication, devotion and distinction and the  resolute and effective leadership of the country at a time when the whole globe was gripped and rocked by an  unprecedented pandemic.

In combatting COVID-19, a wide range of lessons were learnt, many best practices were   identified, and new insights, competencies and experiences were gained. These ought to be   further studied, refined, analyzed, interpreted and documented for the benefit of posterity. This should be done without delay lest a lot of the valuable information gathered and the knowledge gained is  lost forever.

Since the tsunami struck us in 2004 and the 3-decade long conflict ended in 2009, several   useful books have been written; however, they are mainly single-authored and lack a comprehensive and authoritative treatment of   the various facets involved. 

In the circumstances, the NSF proposes to conduct a national conference titled “COVID -19: Impact, Mitigation, Opportunities and Building Resilience” under the theme “From Adversity to Serendipity” in January 2021. The aim is to bring all the key players of the relevant public and private sector institutions under one roof to deliberate and reflect on the above aspects of the pandemic so as to build a robust and resilient economy in Sri Lanka.

The proceedings of the conference will be edited and published in a landmark treatise which will prove valuable not only to  Sri Lanka, but to the  rest of the world in coping with, and mitigating the impact of,  such pandemics in the future.

This is meant to create awareness among the potential contributors to the forthcoming national event and more details, including the call for papers will be published shortly.

Professor Ranjith Senaratne
National Science Foundation
47/5, Maitland Place
Colombo 07


Last Updated ( Sunday, 05 July 2020 10:40 )  
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