Doing it Ourselves
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
As the Coronavirus outbreak continues inside Sri Lanka, many are beginning to understand just how deadly this disease is to us, both directly and indirectly. With major industries and manufacturing getting shut down, sourcing essential goods and technology (especially crucial medical equipment for the battle against COVID-19) from overseas has gradually become more and more difficult.
In response to this situation, Sri Lankans across the island have begun efforts to 'do it ourselves' instead of relying on imports. National campaigns for the production of vegetables and other food crops locally have begun whilst multiple efforts to produce medical equipment are popping up on the news and on social media.
It must be noted that we are manufacturing the equipment we used to import with only a fraction of the cost. Charities providing for the needy and underprivileged, both by the Government and private sector have never been this strong before, and new innovations and ideas have been providing novel solutions to various issues that we are facing right now.
Vega Innovations became famous among Sri Lankans after manufacturing Sri Lanka's and South Asia's first ever all electric supercar, the Vega EVX. With the crucial need of ventilators for COVID-19 patients who need breathing assistance, they have responded by developing technology for the fight against the Coronavirus in Sri Lanka.
Their low-cost ventilator was created using a small team and was tested under the supervision of Dr. Chandana Karunarathna who is a consultant at the Ministry of Health. While it is still a simple design, they plan to further develop their creation in the future.
They have also designed an emergency disinfectant chamber which can be used to protect medical staff against the virus.
Output from local universities
The University of Peradeniya has been active in the efforts against Coronavirus. They have designed, produced and donated 12 ventilators during this April. A new antimicrobial paint has also been developed within the university which can possibly destroy infectious and disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
A remote controlled robot that can disinfect hospital grounds has been developed by students of the University of Moratuwa. Engineers from the University of Ruhuna and the Rajarata University have created robots which can aid in the treatment and monitoring of Coronavirus patients as well, drastically reducing the time medical staff has to spend directly with a patient.
The students of the Rajarata University have also contributed with the creation of an automatic hand sanitiser dispensing machine.
P.D.S Ashan Kumara, a Mechatronics student at the University of Sri Jayawardanapura has also managed to design and develop a ventilator for Coronavirus patients. While the finalisation and testing of the product is underway, it also will soon bring valued help for medical teams across the country.
A student at the University of Kelaniya, Dhammika Prabhath with the support of his lecturers has created an anti-microbial filter which can be used for producing masks within the country using locally-sourced herbal ingredients and materials. It has already been approved by the Ayurvedic Department of Sri Lanka and can be used to manufacture masks (a vital resource in this pandemic) locally instead of importing from overseas.
Keshara Weerasinghe, an Engineering student of the University of Peradeniya has also led the way in helping medical teams by producing reusable and sterilisable protective gear that is essential for staying safe while treating Coronavirus patients. He hopes to increase production of his manufacturing and is seeking added assistance.
A group of Management and Information Technology students of the University of Kelaniya have come up with new ways to provide necessities to people through online services. pharmasiya.com can be used to connect pharmacies with their customers to receive prescription medicine delivered to your doorstep. Pharmacies and consumers can register for the service free of charge.
They have also come up with digitalpola.me to connect those who wish to sell vegetables and fruits with buyers. This service is also currently available online.
Many others could be found
Duminda Amarasiri of Duminda Bodykits has partnered together with medical doctors to create video laryngoscopes that help doctors guide ventilator connectors into a patient's lungs. He is looking for people to donate the cameras necessary for producing more of these in order to donate them to hospitals.
Dr. Pathum Kerner and a team of professionals have come up with many ideas that are helping medical teams throughout the country. They have created a safe intubation box, which can help doctors connect patients to a ventilator using a laryngoscope while minimising the chance of being exposed to the virus.
A medical isolation pod which is a sealed unit that can be used to transport Coronavirus patients without putting medical teams in danger has also been invented. They have also created multiple community sampling pods which allow medical staff to take samples from suspected Coronavirus patients safely without the use of protective clothing. All three creations will undoubtedly be very useful for the safety of medical staff.
The creation of medical-assistant robots is also underway, which would become Sri Lanka's first Sinhala-speaking robotic medical assistant.
The Ceylon Arrack company has contributed as well by making hand sanitisers. These hand sanitisers are currently being donated to hospitals that treat Coronavirus patients.
There are so many other great innovations and creations to be found, such as the Rasam mix which hopes to elevate the human body's natural immunity and these are only a handful among them. With so many new ideas and creations happening amidst a crisis and a nationwide lockdown, the question arises as to why haven't we been doing these kinds of innovations before? If such low-cost ventilators were designed and produced beforehand, Sri Lanka could even have rendered a much-needed help in supplying the world's demand for ventilators right now. The same can be said for all these innovations and many more. It is probably the time for the authorities to realise that they should take the initiative and properly support Sri Lanka's innovations and research.