A wise move | Daily News

A wise move

The decision taken by the authorities not to impose an islandwide curfew in the wake of the detection of the largest Coronavirus cluster in the country is a sound one indeed, given its wider implications. Presently, a curfew is in force in 18 Police divisions of the Gampaha district following the unearthing of a Coronavirus cluster in the confines of a single garment factory in Minuwangoda.

Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva who is also the Head of the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 ruled out an islandwide curfew, at least for the moment, even though the expanding Brandix cluster was baffling to them. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi too opined that an islandwide curfew was not an immediate option though the situation was being closely monitored. She told Parliament on Wednesday that as a responsible Government it was not their intention to push the country to the brink by such a measure.

No doubt the experience of the first Coronavirus outbreak may have prompted the Government to hold back from plunging headlong into a countrywide lockdown.The implications from such a drastic course are all too well known both to the economy and also to the community. Besides, many who lost their livelihoods as a result of the earlier lockdown are only just beginning to pick up the pieces. This also applies to businesses and commercial establishments. It is also a positive sign that the Government has not gone into panic mode and taken drastic measures. It has allowed normal life to proceed as far as possible at its own pace with a proviso that the public should strictly follow the health guidelines in operation. The GCE (A/L) and Year Five scholarships exams will be held on schedule.Businesses, offices and workplaces are operating as usual, subjected to the guidelines in force.

However all this does not mean the country is out of the woods vis-a-vis the Coronavirus. The Army Commander and health authorities together with Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella noted that the next 48 hours could be crucial. This no doubt is on account of the hitherto unsuccessful bid to trace the original carrier who infected the female supervisor of the Minuwangoda factory and precipitated a cluster of 1034 patients and perhaps, a long chain stemming from this.

There are reports of detection of Coronavirus cases outside the Brandix cluster, with several other persons having tested positive. They may or may not have had contact with the Brandix cluster or their associates. However, top Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera has ruled out the chance of the Coronavirus having reached the stage of community spread. But an unknown number of associates of the Brandix cluster, and their first contacts and in return their associates down the line are still at large going about their business nonchalantly possibly infecting hundreds of others in the process. This is the time for the authorities to be a little more forthcoming and take the people into their confidence by drawing a true picture of the situation. That way, the people in turn would understand the gravity of what is at stake and respond positively to all advice.

The arrival of 48 Lankans from the Brandix branches in India too had given rise to all kinds of questions and speculation, which, thankfully, had been put to rest by the Army Commander ruling out any link with the Brandix cluster in Minuwangoda. This was reminiscent of the arrival of a staff member of the US diplomatic Corps in Colombo into the country during the first outbreak of Corona here bypassing the quarantine procedures, which stirred a hornet’s nest.

Meanwhile, a call has gone out from an Opposition MP that all Parliamentarians be subjected to PCR tests.This suggestion could have some merit given that MPs by virtue of their calling have to mix with the public which, in the context of present developments, is fraught with danger. The suggestion could well have been made in jest or as part and parcel of the political power play in this country. But one should not forget the distinguished line of politicians the world over who fell prey to the pandemic starting with US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Heir to the British Throne Prince Charles and many other leaders around the world all of whom went into quarantine.

Hence, it goes without saying that this is hardly a time to dwell on such niceties such as Parliamentary Privileges or diplomatic immunity, in the teeth of the worst health emergency the world has witnessed in recent times (almost no one alive now has a recollection of the 1918-20 Spanish Flu which killed millions). Hence, the need for all concerned to act with responsibility and circumspection in finding ways to overcome the present health crisis and make the world a better place to live in health-wise.