The “New Normal” | Daily News

The “New Normal”

The gazette giving legal effect to the prevailing health guidelines, issued by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi it is hoped, would act as an effective deterrent to those acting irresponsibly vis-a-vis the Coronavirus pandemic. According to the new gazette, a fine of Rs. 10,000 and/or a six month prison term will be imposed against violators of the health regulations in force. This time around the law ought to be imposed in all its severity if the problem is not to get out of hand, like in some other countries.

It is the leniency adopted during the first outbreak, perhaps, that led to the public taking a casual approach to the looming danger of a second wave. Any softening of the penalizing process would certainly make the Coronavirus assume more serious proportions in this country at a time when almost all the Western countries have re-imposed curfews and lockdowns.

Sri Lankans are notorious for their short memories and for letting their collective guard down after the immediate danger has passed, a trend that was amply witnessed during the war years. Already 168 curfew violators have been arrested in the lockdown areas in the Gampaha district which is a clear indication that a majority of the public are either gluttons for punishment or seized by a death wish, willing to expose themselves to the deadly contagion.

Several thousand curfew violators were taken into custody during the first outbreak. In all probability they would have been left scot free after a warning. No wonder some people do not take curfews seriously. This time around the curfews and isolations must be strictly enforced and any violators severely dealt with.

Apart from making wearing face masks compulsory and the one metre distance rule, the gazette stipulating the restrictions in factories and workplaces too is timely. These places have very large work forces especially in factories involved in production activities. Besides a majority of these premises are not equipped to accommodate the full complement of such a workforce, bursting at the seams. Hence, the restrictions specifying the numbers that could be accommodated on any single day is a positive step, especially given that the second wave outbreak originated in a workplace that employed vast numbers.

According to Army Commander Lt General Shavendra Silva who is also Head of the Anti-Coronavirus Task Force, all cases detected so far have traced their origin to the Brandix cluster, ruling out a community spread. However, the unearthing of cases in large numbers on a daily basis from all districts in the country should be viewed with alarm, although everything is being done by those involved in hunting down the multi-tiered contacts. Their dedication and sacrifice should be appreciated by all.

However they are confronted with a problem – the unwillingness and reluctance on the part of those having had contact with the Brandix cluster in some form or other to respond to calls to submit themselves for quarantine. Most feel that doing so would mark them as social outcasts and the fallout from such an eventuality on their social life and also employment, while others are averse to entering quarantine centres due to other reasons, which according to Lt. Gen Silva had compelled his men go for the hard option and force such persons to see sense. After all, it is for their own good and good of the community at large. The larger benefit this will entail to all concerned is worth the price of a certain degree of inconvenience and sacrifice.

Like what Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohan said what they seek is not to intimidate anyone but to provide a shield against the spread of the Coronavirus. It is the duty of all citizens, therefore, to cooperate in this exercise.

The gazetting of the regulations making compliance mandatory under the law will ensure that the “New Normal” concept is permanently embedded in community life in this country as elsewhere in the world. This is because the, Coronavirus pandemic, while causing monumental upheaval, admittedly, has also brought in its wake certain positives such as constant adherence to good health practices.

During the strict regulations and restrictions forced down on the people due to the pandemic, it was a telling revelation on how the world would have been a better place to live in had these regulations and guidelines been in existence earlier, which would have even prevented the spread of the pandemic with such devastating effect.

With the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that the COVOD-19 would remain in our midst at least for the next two years before a viable vaccine is made widely available, it is just as well that we settle down to the “New Normal” life pattern right away. In that respect the gazette containing the enforced guidelines could not have come at a better time.