An inspiring assurance | Daily News

An inspiring assurance

The assurance given by the relevant authorities that the latest Coronavirus outbreak could be contained would allay public fears to a great extent. Fears were being entertained by the public that a dark chapter awaits the country as a result of the growing nature of the pandemic.

The assurance came both from Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva who is also the Head of the Coronavirus Prevention Task Force and Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, the new Health Ministry spokesman. They spoke in unison that the spread of COVID-19 could be pulled back effectively before it assumes dangerous proportions.

Lt. General Silva while not giving a specific time-frame expressed confidence that the virus would not be allowed to get out of hand. He said the entire Brandix cluster had been identified and directed to hospitals or quarantine centres.

The contention by the Army Commander that a specific time-frame could not be given for the total arrest of the pandemic is understandable. Although the Brandix cluster had been identified one has to take into account that there had been suspected cases within the Brandix factory complex even before the first detection of the virus,  going back to the middle of September – time enough for a long chain reaction. There were also instances where residential addresses given by the Brandix employees to the management varied and could not be traced to pick up the scent to track down the contacts. The police were unable to get this information from the employees who are either in hospital or quarantine, according to Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana. He has called all establishments and workplaces to update their employees’ personal files so that they could be tracked down without difficulty in case of infection. This sounds like a good idea as far as fixed employment is concerned. What option is left in instances of employment where such details will or can be hidden from the authorities ? 

This is not to say that all options should not be tried in tracing the contacts of the Brandix cluster whose reach has even extended to places like the Mannar Bishop’s Residence where it was found that a maintenance worker had been in touch with an associate of a Brandix employee. This is just one instance of the extent to which the chain-link has progressed. There is no knowing to what other corners of the country the Brandix tentacles had spread.

The random detection of Coronavirus cases from locations far apart and in unlikely places no doubt tells a tale. It is also doubtful if calls for those showing signs of the symptoms of the virus to give themselves up for quarantine would meet with the desired response. This is because most fear the unnecessary social stigma attached to this virus, which makes it doubly difficult to trace the cases.

Hence, the Army Commander’s reluctance to provide a time-frame is quite understandable. However a fallacious mindset should be dispelled and confidentiality guaranteed to all those submitting themselves for quarantine voluntarily. Workplaces too should be advised  to re-accommodate all such individuals who submit themselves for quarantine. This is because fears may be entertained among such individuals that they would not be welcome at their workplaces after undergoing such an experience.   

Workplaces themselves ought to tighten up on safety measures. We also wonder what happened to the  booklet issued by the Health and Indigenous Ministry  that set down guidelines for 46 work settings and public activities, with an emphasis on the ‘New Normal’ and responsible behaviours to be adopted by all Sri Lankans.

While it has laid stress on the health guidelines already in practice, in the wake of the initial outbreak a fresh set of guidelines had also been issued covering a wide gamut of professions, occupations, services and other activities including mundane functions. These include the behaviour to be followed while travelling in buses, trains, trishaws, seating arrangements in hotels, at weddings, seminars, public meetings, sporting centres etc, which hitherto had free licence. Interestingly, among the latest detections was a party of 25 who were guests at a wedding reception, which shows that all these guidelines had been thrown overboard with the passage of time.

The Army Commander has also discounted any suggestion of a lockdown. Of course there is no need for such a desperate measure as the full machinery is in operation to combat the virus. The Employers’ Federation of the Katunayake Free Trade Zone too has stated that it would not go for a total shutdown of the factories in the IPZ after six factories were closed down following the detection of several cases. The country cannot be allowed to slip into despair, despondency and a state of paralysis enslaved by a pandemic, admittedly monstrously dangerous, but must emerge from the threat by adapting counter measures to combat the risk. Hence, the sooner all Sri Lankans get used to the new order of things the easier it will be in the long run.