Colombo, Jan 29 (IANS): Sri Lanka has reported its first confirmed coronavirus case, a Chinese woman in her 40s.
The government said it was not treating the situation as “serious” although citizens have been advised to be on alert.
Dr Sudath Samaraweera, chief epidemiologist at Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, told EFE: “The Chinese national who was tested positive of coronavirus is currently undergoing treatment and we observe that she is well and recovering.”
Coronavirus patient zero in Sri Lanka has been identified as a Chinese national in her 40s.
She arrived in Sri Lanka as a tourist on 19 January and was suffering from fever six days later.
The woman was taken to the country’s infectious disease hospital or fever hospital where she tested positive for coronavirus on Monday.
The case was met with panic by locals and face masks sold out within the day.
The itinerary of the patient was also shared among the public and health officials were closely monitoring the destinations she had travelled to within the country.
“So far this is the only confirmed case of coronavirus we have seen in the country,” an anonymous health official at Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau said.
“But there are several other suspected cases across the country.”
He added that it was too early to share details of the suspected cases.
The official said any people who had contact with patient zero and the other suspected cases were also being monitored.
Sri Lanka has also designated an isolation camp to hold people arriving from Wuhan, where the virus originated.
Samaraweera said the country had not yet received anyone from Wuhan.
Sri Lanka has brought back at least 200 students and their family members from China, who were given a 50 per cent discount on air tickets.
Sri Lanka’s presidential press office said in a statement: “Relevant authorities frequently communicate with students to verify their well-being.
“Those who had arrived from China were requested to attend regular medical screenings and to be vigilant about their bodily temperature.”
The students were also asked to wear a face mask for three weeks.
Samaraweera said the students and their family members who returned from China were sent home.
Sri Lanka’s Beijing embassy applied on Monday to land an aircraft belonging to Sri Lankan Airlines in Wuhan city in a bid to airlift 32 Sri Lankan students and their relatives.
Sri Lanka has around 860 students in China.
The island nation also installed four thermal detectors at the Bandaranaike International Airport to detect possible carriers of the deadly virus.
One official at the airport said the country lacked professionals to use the detectors as only security officers were available to operate them.
Health authorities have also asked citizens to wear face masks and seek immediate medical assistance if they have flu-like symptoms. Some Chinese companies in the country have asked employees to work from home.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was also on high alert amid increased travel as people celebrated Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest festive holiday.
Around 217,500 tourists from northeast Asia and 68,900 from southeast Asia came to the country in 2019, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority in December.
Mahen Kariyawasam, president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, said: “Everyone in the tourism industry is worried.