Analysis of the COVID-19 Response in Sri Lanka Open Access

Gunawardana, Thisara (Fall 2021)

Permanent URL:


Countries that are considered “third world”, or a part of the “Global South” are often looked down upon by others in the rest of the world. This viewpoint is a remnant, an artifact, of the colonial age, that persists long past its expiration date. In the context of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, one might have expected countries classified as such to underperform and be ill-equipped to handle the response required of an illness of this scale. However, the island nation of Sri Lanka outperformed many of its neighbors, both geographical and economical, in the early stages of the pandemic, and even managed the most recent wave of the pandemic relatively well. In order to better understand how Sri Lanka was able to perform so well, a set of sixteen open-ended interviews done with members at different levels of the Sri Lankan healthcare system, as well as those affected by the pandemic and its subsequent response, with the interviews being supplemented via publicly available statistics and databases. This study discovered that through a combination of an extremely well-developed public health system as well as a strong sense of cultural community, Sri Lanka was able to mitigate much of the effects of the pandemic through a largely successful response to the pandemic. However, this response was not without several difficulties, both economic and social, that continue to influence decisions even now, at the end of 2021. This success story of a so-called “developing” speaks to the flaws of not only the colonial mindset, but also the danger of the usage of the binary of “developed versus developing” terminology, instead recommending a focusing on more specific measures pertinent to the issue being studied. Hopefully, this paper highlights that by seeking to define a country through a binary system, we remove much of the complexity surrounding its inner dynamics and that countries like Sri Lanka could be considered “developed” in their own way, and will, with time, become part of a two-way exchange as opposed to a one-way development.

Table of Contents


Section 1: Introduction. 1

Section 2: History and Background. 2

Section 2.1: Pillars of A Response. 5

Section 2.2: Sri Lanka’s Medical System.. 9

Section 3: Methods. 12

Section 3.1: Travel Restrictions and Obstacles: 16

Section 3.2: Cultural Boundaries: 17

Section 3.3: Language and Translations: 17

Section 3.4: The Email Mask. 19

Section 4: Results. 20

Section 4.1: Multi-Vector and Multi-Level Assault 21

Section 4.2: Community Strength: Together Strong. 27

Section 4.3: Economic Challenges and Uphill Battles. 30

Section 5: Discussion. 32

Section 6: Conclusion. 35

Appendix A: Chart of the Cases and Deaths of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Sri Lanka. 38

Appendix B: Geographical and Political Map of Sri Lanka. 39

Section 7: Bibliography. 40

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files