A challenging task | Daily News


A challenging task

With the number of Coronavirus cases on the rise not just in the Minuwangoda epicentre but also outside the “danger zone”, the Government no doubt will have to reassess its options to control the further spread of the contagion before it assumes more serious proportions.

Needless to say, extreme measures are called for if the spread of Pandemic is to be managed let alone brought under control even if they are unpopular and seemingly look harsh. Perhaps it is with this view in mind that the authorities have decided to come down hard on those treating the worst health emergency to hit the country in living memory in a casual and flippant manner without giving due regard to the seriousness of the situation.

According to Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, strict action would be taken against those apparel workers who continue to avoid submitting themselves for quarantine including seizure of their movable and immovable assets including of those who harbour such absconders in their homes. All Brandix employees had been accounted for, barring a very few, according to Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva. But the question remains that over 500 employees failed to respond to immediate calls for quarantine until October 8, while the female supervisor who was the first to test COVID-19 positive is believed to have been carrying the virus for as far back as September 22, according to Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera.

What could have happened in the intervening period is certainly not difficult to picture. It will now be the thankless task of Intelligence authorities to track down the contacts of these 500 plus employees who may have caused irreparable damage by their callous disregard for summons for quarantine. Already the signs are ominous. Yesterday it was reported that a 10-month-old infant at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital had been declared a Coronavirus victim while others such as the parent of a student of leading boys’ school and member of Colombo Royal Golf Club who tested positive could not have had a link to the Brandix cluster.

This raises the possibility of the virus running out of control though an assurance was given by Dr. Samaraweera that the there was no danger yet of a community spread. He also discounted the need for a countrywide lockdown given the fallout on the economy and community life as experienced during the early days of the outbreak of COVID- 19. Already certain owners of factories in the Gampaha District are planning a return to the status quo by paying half wages to their employees- a move that was being resisted by Labour Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva. But there will be little option in the face of a deteriorating situation. Hence, the need for all concerned to trace the original carrier with utmost urgency and prevent the country receding to the days of the first outbreak.

The Government, understandably, is in a Catch-22 situation, not being able to afford another total lockdown on the one hand and the dire need for preventing the spread to unmanageable proportions. The curfew is still in force in the 18 Police divisions in the Gampaha District with the Police Spokesman ruling out an islandwide curfew during the weekend reminiscent of the practice during the initial outbreak.

Besides, a lockdown would mean a paralysis of economic activity, which will prove to be difficult to revive in a hurry. This the government is not unmindful of and hence will be continuing to monitor the situation round the clock. On the other hand, like the health authorities keep continually asserting, the Coronavirus is far from being conquered, though the initial clusters may have been neutralized. It needs only one careless carrier to set back the whole process. They cite the examples of certain countries in the West which, similarly, to inject life into the economy, lifted restrictions, only to bitterly rue their decisions made in haste, when these countries reverted to square one. A second wave, therefore, was always hanging like a Sword of Damocles.

Into the bargain the country is also in the grip of another health crisis in the form of mosquito-borne dengue. No doubt the health sector is stretched to its full capacity to cope with the novel Coronavirus crisis. But this is no reason to bypass an equally potential crisis which if allowed to get out of hand could surpass the casualties that would make even the Coronavirus pale into insignificance. We say this because, while the Coronavirus in this country has claimed only 13 lives, dengue, as has been our experience, counts its fatalities in the hundreds countrywide. Hence, the Health Ministry should get cracking without delay in devising emergency measures to combat the dengue epidemic too with the same commitment and resourcefulness its staff is displaying to fight the Coronavirus.