Foreign Secretary Aryasinha outlines role and preparations of the Ministry and its missions in tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic

05 April 2020

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has outlined the role and preparations of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and its missions across the world, in helping Sri Lanka tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing concerns of Sri Lankan nationals overseas. Referring to Sri Lankan citizens abroad, he said “parents here in Sri Lanka, should rest a little bit more comfortably about their children, knowing that the Embassy is a phone call away and if there are issues on the ground, that our Missions abroad will deal with it” and that “if there is a real calamity, the Government of Sri Lanka will step in”. He said while dealing with the immediate concerns at hand, the Ministry and Missions are working hard “to anticipate and prepare for any difficulties ahead, and to further map out what we do the day after this problem is solved, particularly on the economic front”.

The Foreign Secretary made these observations, in a wide-ranging interview with Indeewari Amuwatte, on the ‘Hyde Park’ programme of Ada Derana 24, on 4 April 2020

 

Full interview: 

 

The Airport Arrival Terminal Continues to be closed for Passengers

04 April 2020 

 

Flights with Passengers may leave Sri Lanka

Ports operations continue uninterrupted

 

To prevent imported new cases of the Corona virus in the country, the Government decides to indefinitely extend the closure of the arrival terminal at the Airport.

The departure terminal will continue to be operational. Also flights are allowed into the country to take the departing passengers. All passenger transit operations have been stopped for the moment.

All import and export operations are to continue without interruption.

The Government has decided to continue with these the restrictions until the country returns to normalcy.

 

Mohan Samaranayake

Director General President’s Media Division

 

22 March 2020

Antiviral properties of tea: Black Tea may become the unique brew of choice with no side effects to fight against Corona virus?

4 April 2020

IS BLACK TEA AN IMMUNITY BOOSTER FOR COVID- 19?

Is there any silver lining in the dark cloud for ‘Ceylon Tea’? The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) has released a scientific paper under the theme: ‘Anti-viral’ properties of tea - black tea may become the unique brew of choice with no side effects to fight against Corona Virus? ".

Low incidence of infected patients:

Sri Lankans habitually consume 03 to 04 cups of Ceylon Black Tea. Therefore, in addition to epidemic control measures and social distancing and hot local temperatures (between 26°C-32°C), the practice of drinking tea may also contribute to the low incidence of infected patients with coronavirus. The infected case and the cases per million people in Sri Lanka are comparatively low. It could be due to a combination of multiple reasons, which certainly requires in-depth investigation.

Power of Ceylon Black Tea as a potential booster:

Several studies are ongoing globally in search of therapeutic options to recognize ‘anti-viral’ agents which could treat patients affected by COVID 19. However, “prevention is better than cure”. TRI has made a genuine effort to investigate the "Power of Ceylon Black Tea" as a potential booster to aid one’s immune system to fight against the virus when confronted. 

Several studies undertaken in different countries have demonstrated the potential benefits of Black & Green Tea consumption in controlling influenza and common cold generally caused by viral infections. Tea Catechins have the ability to bind onto the surface of the influenza virus and inhibit the spread. TRI has quoted a recently conducted research study from Taiwan where the chemical structure of 64 compounds had been bioinformatically modelled against SARS-CoV- 2.

Black tea has ‘theaflavins’:

It had been revealed that ‘Theaflavins’ could potentially inhibit a critical SARS-CoV- 2 enzyme, and thereby, theoretically inhibit COVID-19. Theaflavins are antioxidant polyphenols that are formed during enzymatic oxidation process (fermentation) in the manufacture of Black Tea. In contrast to Green Tea, Black Tea is rich in Theaflavins due to the manufacturing process. An alkaloid, found in tea is Theaflavins, a chemical shown to alleviate respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases. It relaxes and opens air passages in the lungs making it easier to breathe.

Inhaling the fumes (steam) of hot black tea:

The TRI release has highlighted that, inhaling boiling water mixed with Black Tea can facilitate the clearing of the passages towards the lungs. As the COVID-19 epidemic is a similar illness where the patients find it difficult to breathe. The scientists at the Sri Lanka Tea Board Laboratory suggest that frequent consumption of hot black tea is capable of flushing viruses trapped in the throat area. This practice is believed to improve immune capacity and inhibit inflammation due to Catechins and Polyphenols contained in Black Tea. Further, inhaling the fumes (steam) of hot black tea at high temperatures facilitates the removal of viruses trapped around the nasal area and opens a pathway for the tea Theaflavins to reach the lungs and protect it from viruses. 

Drink Black tea good for immune system:

It could be assumed in respect of the circumstantial evidence available that daily consumption of Black Tea (03 to 04 cups without sugar or milk) is very useful and linked to the boosting of the immune system of normal human beings against respiratory diseases. The COVID-19 is an influenza-like illness which could be perceived to be curtailed by Theaflavins, one of the most active ingredients in Black Tea as explained in this review.  

Please note that Black Tea is neither a medically proven prophylaxis nor a treatment against COVID-19, but it is worth conducting further research to investigate the possible anti-viral benefits of Theaflavins in Black Tea against COVID-19. Clinical trials however, need to be initiated prior to claiming benefits against COVID-19 in humans. It is premature to make concrete claims until in-vivo experiments or Research & Development on living cells are undertaken as per WHO guidelines. Nevertheless, Sri Lankans strongly believe that Ceylon Tea, the miracle Black Tea beverage is certainly one of them. 

 

The relevant scientific papers are available with the Sri Lanka Tea Board for any references. 

(Courtesy of Sri Lanka Tea Board/ 03/04/20)

 

 

Further Reading : http://www.srilankateaboard.lk/index.php/the-cup-that-heals

 

                             http://www.srilankateaboard.lk/index.php/the-sri-lanka-tea-board/item/66

 

                             https://www.tri.lk/news-details/news-details/70

               

 

 

Minister Gunawardena explores practical solutions to assist expatriate communities with Foreign Ministry Officials

3 April 2020

Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena met with senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations today at the Ministry to discuss about the welfare of the Sri Lankan expatriate communities, difficulties currently being faced by these communities and ways to explore practical solutions to assist expatriate communities at this time of need.

Earlier this week, taking note of the growing concerns of the Overseas Sri Lankans amidst the rapid spread of COVID- 19 and their inability to immediately return to Sri Lanka, the Ministry had discussed with Sri Lanka Missions abroad ongoing & further measures to ensure the well being and safety of Overseas Sri Lankans.

In discussing issues of migrant workers, especially in the Middle Eastern countries, the Minister directed the senior officials of the Ministry to work closely with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to find appropriate solutions to such issues.

Foreign Minister Gunawardena also highlighted the importance of maintaining economic and trade relations between Sri Lanka and other countries during this period. He advised the officials to take necessary actions to explore new markets for Sri Lankan products, especially for Tea and to consolidate existing markets for Sri Lankan products such as apparel.

Foreign Minister Gunawardena appreciated the services of senior officials of the Ministry, including staff of Sri Lankan Overseas Missions, and their dedication during this difficult period. Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Additional Secretaries, Directors General and other senior officials attended the meeting.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations                                                                                                                                                            

Colombo

03 April 2020

Foreign Ministry takes stock of action by Sri Lanka Missions abroad to ensure the welfare of Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL)

3 April 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Relations, sensitive to the concerns of the OSLs amidst the rapid spread of the COVID-19 and the inability to return to Sri Lanka, has held consultations over the past 2 days with its Heads of Missions based in 67 cities across the world, to facilitate the wellbeing and safety of Overseas Sri Lankans, while preparing for any exigencies they could have to meet in the coming days.

In a series of tele-conferences led by Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha with Heads of Mission/Post in 5 regional clusters (South Asia, Middle East, South East Asia & East Asia, Africa & Latin America, as well as North America & Europe), issues that demanded attention in respect of Overseas Sri Lankans were discussed, in keeping with the Government’s policy directives, on the COVID -19 pandemic. The focal point of the Foreign Ministry on COVID -19 Action and DG/East Asia Mr. Kandeepan Balasubramaniam, Additional Secretaries, respective territorial DGs and relevant functional DGs of the Ministry were associated in the discussions. The Acting General Manager of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), W.M.V. Wansekara, also attended some of the consultations which focused on Sri Lankan migrant receiving countries.

Overall, all Sri Lanka Missions, even though mostly in ‘work from home’ mode, have been constantly interacting with the student communities and the migrant workers in their respective stations and have established 24-hour emergency hotlines providing easy access to the Mission staff. While the Missions are in the process of updating databases of Sri Lankans in their respective stations, social media platforms are also being used to maintain and enhance links by which information could be shared. The Sri Lanka Missions in these regions have assured the community members and students studying overseas that requests for return of Sri Lankans will be considered once the spread of the virus is contained in the country.

Sri Lanka Missions in the Middle East, as well as South East Asia, East Asia, Africa and Southern Europe, which host the largest concentration of Sri Lankan expatriate workers, informed of their efforts to constantly network with Sri Lankans overseas and the community representatives, assisting them in matters concerning emergency passports, visa extensions, and employment contracts, by discussing with the respective local authorities and intervening and seeking clearances, as required.

Highlighting  the need to assist this important  segment  of migrant  labour, one of largest contributors  to  Sri Lanka’s  foreign  exchange, the Ministry stressed that  the Missions and the SLBFE should  also look after and facilitate the well-being of Sri Lankans without valid  visas, unemployed  and  also  those not registered with the SLBFE. It was noted that some Sri Lanka Missions have  liaised  with local  charities that support  people  who  are  unemployed, recruiting agencies,  other community organizations, International organizations such as IOM and Caritas, to render assistance to Sri Lankans until such time they  can  be  safely  repatriated   back   to  Sri Lanka. The declaration of amnesty periods by some  Middle  Eastern countries  and  the ramifications of such action, were also discussed during the tele conferences.   

With respect to Sri Lankan students enrolled across the globe, most Missions, including those in the West, reported having close contact with the University administrations and the students communities, to make certain that the students have continued access to their accommodation in hostels, access to food and medical facilities.

The Missions have also been striving to secure visa extensions for students, as well as others residents and those visiting abroad, whose visas are lapsing. This concession was granted for over 15,000 foreigners visiting Sri Lanka  until 12  May, due to reasons caused by the pandemic.

On the economic front, the Ministry, through its Mission network, in collaboration with the Export Development Board (EDB) is in the process of facilitating Sri Lankan exporters at this volatile time period to re-position themselves in the long run. In this respect, the Missions network assists the EDB to obtain market information as well as address issues relevant to supply side constraints in our key export sourcing countries.  This also includes seeking new opportunities for Sri Lanka for existing products, as well as requirements related to the COVID 19 situation.

The Ministry also took note of the positive action by some Missions in collaborating with the Sri Lankan Health authorities, to coordinate procurement of medicines and medical equipment urgently needed on a Government to Government basis. Missions were further requested to look for opportunities to obtain test kits and necessary medical equipment in consultation with the Ministry of Health, to help mitigate the spread of the virus in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the new ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ online Web Portal launched by the Ministry of Foreign Relations on 26 March 2020, has to date seen 45,770 Sri Lankans living abroad register, a bulk of them from the Middle East. It is noteworthy that 1955 queries have also been directed to the portal, and been answered. The Portal is a direct interface for all Overseas Sri Lankans to voice their views and concerns to the Ministry and the Missions, and has been jointly created by the Foreign Ministry and Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). The web link is hosted on the Ministry web page www.mfa.gov.lk and also can be accessed at www.contactsrilanka.mfa.gov.lk.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

                   

2 April 2020

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