Lessons from Minuwangoda | Daily News

Lessons from Minuwangoda

With the continuing surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in curfew slapped Minuwangoda where a factory supervisor was first found to have been carrying the virus and the detection of cases outside the ‘danger zone’ it is clear that the country is in the throes of a much feared second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic that will need all the efforts and resources the State could muster to bring under control. This is going by the experience of countries which rolled back their lockdowns and opened up only to see the pandemic revisiting them with greater intensity.

According to Chief Epidemiologist of the Academy of the Epidemic Disease Unit Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, the Covid-19 cluster in the Minuwangoda area is the most difficult one to be tackled since the point of origin of its first infection is untraceable. He told a news conference that this cluster was more dangerous than the other clusters since the Health officials had not yet ascertained as to how the female factory worker had first contracted the virus.

These fears cannot be unfounded since the female supervisor’s infection came to be detected by pure chance when she was subjected to a casual PCR test for a fever while being hospitalized. Prior to that she could well have circulated freely visiting friends and relatives, doing shopping and travelling in public transport. Who she infected in the process apart from her charges in the Government factory, is anybody’s guess.

Hence the authorities will have to throw their dragnet far and wide. But the problem lies in deciding from where to begin. At the time of writing Health officials are yet to receive even the remotest of clues as to the original source of the infection and it is going to be a Herculean task, as Dr. Samaraweera opined, to obtain a cue in this connection. This may force the authorities to go for the hard option of enforcing yet another lockdown, until the original carrier is traced.

Even then it will be a case of continuing the hunt to trace those who had been in contact with the original carrier which is going to make the exercise that much harder. Of course, going for lockdown would be the last option of the Government given what this could mean to the economy and livelihoods, going by the experience of a few months ago. The Government is also not in position to dole out handouts as it did earlier due to the unstable state of the economy still reeling from the initial outbreak of the virus.

But with hundreds, nay, thousands of lives at stake extreme measures will have to be deployed in a situation where the virus could well run out of control as in many other countries.

In the meantime, loud calls are going out for the public to strictly adhere to the health guidelines put in place during the first outbreak of the pandemic, with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issuing a special gazette to legally deal with those flouting the rules. Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva, who also heads the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 said the decision on any lockdown would be taken only after a careful monitoring of the situation and denied reports circulating on social media of an all island curfew that was to be declared yesterday.

Cabinet Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that any decision about an island-wide curfew would entirely depend on the opinion of the medical experts and how the present situation will pan out.

The Government, understandably, is cautious about enforcing a total lockdown given the hardships faced by the people the last time, but with nearly 500 cases reported from among the Minuwangoda factory workers as of noon yesterday, the Gampaha District could well be the starting point of a lockdown.

The second wave, if that indeed is the case, could not have come at a worse time when economic activity was getting off the ground in earnest with also plans to reopen the airport to tourists from Covid-19 free countries were being made, as the country, for all intents and purposes appeared to have seen the back of the Coronavirus. But, as was proved in Minuwangoda, all it needed was just one careless carrier to set back the whole process.

So it will back to the “New Normal”, once again, with offices, businesses and commercial establishments going into reverse gear and limiting their staff and also settling for half salaries and wages, weddings and functions limited to only a handful of guests, cinemas, bars, restaurants putting up shutters, gyms and spas once again closing their doors schools closed with sporting activity brought to a standstill and possibly even Christmas and New Year celebrations curtailed – all due to the callous disregard and indiscipline of a few.