The impact of COVID-19 on Sri Lanka’s labour market, education, migration, and health sectors were discussed at the second webinar panel discussion held on October 13, to mark the release of the ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2021’ report, the flagship report of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). The event saw presentations by Dr Nisha Arunatilake and Dr Bilesha Weeraratne from IPS, with expert insights from Ms Madhavie Gunawardena, Director of TRCSL and Former Commissioner of Labour and Dr Kolitha Wickramage, Global Migration Health Research and Epidemiology Coordinator, Migration Health Division, International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ashani Abayasekera from IPS moderated the discussion. Key highlights of the discussion are presented in this blog.
Like many other countries, Sri Lanka faces numerous challenges in the battle against COVID-19. The pandemic has caused deep uncertainty and presented a colossal challenge for the country’s healthcare system. With the rapid increase in cases and the emergence of new variants, Sri Lanka began to face shortages of medical resources, including hospital beds and medical equipment. The vaccination programme was beset with a host of problems early on due to the irregular and inconsistent supply of vaccines, disorganised deployment and deviation from the scientifically agreed prioritisation. There was also alleged misreporting of COVID-19 daily statistics in the Gampaha district and Eastern Province. The absence of real-time data acted as a hindrance to obtain a reliable risk assessment in the country. Against this backdrop, this blog examines the gaps in the ongoing pandemic control programme and outlines ways to bridge these gaps so that more lives could be saved from COVID-19.
The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) together with the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) of the Duke University, USA organised a virtual policy dialogue on ‘Planning for Universal Health Coverage amidst the 4Ds of Health Transitions’ on 25 August 2021. The dialogue was structured around a recent IPS study aimed at understanding how government, donors and key country stakeholders in the health sector perceive these transition challenges and their impact on the progress towards UHC, where they see the biggest gaps emerging, and what actions can help to address these challenges and gaps. Health sector experts who spoke at the Dialogue flagged the need for multi-sectoral collaboration to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) in Sri Lanka.
‘Commit to Quit’ is the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day marked on 31st May 2021. It provides a welcome focus on smoking cessation by advocating strong cessation policies, increasing access to cessation services, and empowering users to successfully quit the deadly habit through ‘quit and win’ initiatives. The benefits of smoking cessation go beyond the individual; most immediately and directly through reduced involuntary smoke exposure and higher disposable income for household members. It is, therefore, crucial to have effective, long-term cessation interventions. According to the latest IPS research, strengthening existing Tobacco Free Zones (TFZs) and creating new TFZs are a promising initiative to promote smoking cessation. This blog examines the effectiveness of prevailing TFZs and suggests ways to improve them so that Sri Lanka’s public healthcare can be further strengthened.
An effective vaccination strategy is a necessity for countries to move beyond COVID-19. However, it also requires careful policymaking to balance the financial cost of purchasing and delivering vaccines while stimulating economic growth. This article, based on a recent IPS analysis, provides an overview of the approximate costs associated with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Sri Lanka and evaluates policy options to finance the initiative. The authors argue that the government is best off pursuing a medium-term self-financing option through targetted tax interventions and if required, through external financing.