Moving forward with COVID-19 | Daily News

Moving forward with COVID-19

Online learning has become a thing under the New Normal
Online learning has become a thing under the New Normal

The COVID-19 crisis in Sri Lanka has stepped into a new stage. The country is gradually opening up to the outside world under health guidelines and functioning according to nearly 100 sets of health and operational guidelines issued to various institutions, organisations, businesses, and operations; and this is the most crucial moment for all of us, because it is we who decide which direction the country should go in.

Certain news items which we saw on the television and heard over the radio during the recent past were not positive. Therefore, we need to pay attention to these small but dangerous loopholes existing in various systems and places. This is a must in order to move forward in the midst of COVID-19.

Still, all A/C or intercity buses, which are mostly operated by private bus owners, run all over the country while keeping their air conditioning systems on. Some time ago, during the start of the second COVID-19 wave, a private air-conditioned bus ran from Colombo to Mathugama, due to which almost all the passengers who travelled in it got infected. A COVID-19-infected worker attached to the Colombo Port travelled in it that time; that is how all the other passengers got infected. 

On another occasion, passengers of a private air-conditioned bus plying between Colombo and Galle got infected because both the driver and the conductor had contracted the virus several days before. There is no point in talking about the passengers who travelled on that bus during those days. Maybe all of them have become COVID-19 patients by now.

But this is not the first or last incident of that kind. Still, air-conditioned private buses and state-owned long-distance buses (that run on expressways) run freely with their air-conditioning systems on. No one is there to stop this dangerous activity until COVID-19 eases. The most unfortunate situation is that not a single passenger takes action against this deadly environment that exists in almost all air-conditioned public transport services.

From the beginning, all local and foreign health experts clearly pointed out that people who travel in hired taxis taken from various service providers should make sure that they keep the air conditioner switched off and keep all shutters of the car/van open during the trip. This is a must for public transport services, in which all kinds of passengers from unknown locations and backgrounds travel. Criminals avoid health authorities and law enforcement officers with the use of such transportation services.

This deadly issue is not that serious in trains because we have less air-conditioned trains (about two or three). All the other trains and ordinary buses run with open shutters. The wind blowing into trains or buses often clear the contaminated air within them. Therefore, it is somewhat safe for the passengers who travel in those vehicles.

The second most serious issue is holding weddings with many guests. The couple and their elders should make sure that the wedding should not lead to any funeral. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of people do not understand this. Couples should make sure that their weddings are private and not a large public gathering. Their elders should understand that organising large gatherings would lead to many funerals later, and the same would be an issue for the newly-wedded couple.

No matter who is invited for a wedding, it is up to the elders to decide whether to live to see the end of the COVID-19 health crisis or die at home in another few weeks with or without knowing anything. It is up to each individual to decide. Relationships matter, but life matters more than anything else.

Today, the country is partly open for tourists and a pilot project is on the cards to manage tourists without posing any danger to the people in the country. The Health Ministry and all other relevant authorities have issued nearly 100 different guidelines; some of them were issued in April or May, over seven or eight months ago. Some guidelines which required amendments were changed with new developments and considering practical issues. By now, all sets of health and operational guidelines are freely available for all sectors; they can be downloaded from government websites.

It is the same for the Tourism Industry as well. However, there still remains one obstacle: the dishonesty of those connected to it. People who are like that look to protect themselves only from law enforcement, not the coronavirus. Health authorities repeatedly request them to be honest and follow all necessary guidelines.

The main responsibility goes to the guide who handles groups of tourists. The main objective of all guidelines issued to the Tourism Industry is to keep all tourists and local people connected to them away from others who live in Sri Lanka forl 14 days since the date of departure of the groups of tourists. 

Meanwhile, as usual, the families of all local service providers can have weddings, funerals, birthday parties, and all the other events. But the people who are connected to the tourism industry should be honest enough to stay away from their families and friends for 14 days from the date of departure of the group of tourists whom they handled. They need to follow all the guidelines issued to them by the health authorities.

Escaping from whatever place of quarantine before 14 days will harm the entire country. This simple fact should be understood by everyone connected to the Tourism Industry and service providers such as guides, drivers, and hotel employees. But when it comes to the beginning of the second wave from Minuwangoda, some infected hotel employees were found travelling by public transport. The same thing should not happen for the second time, creating a third wave. Hotel managements should make sure that their employees do not mix with their family members or with anyone before completing the compulsory quarantine period.  

Sri Lanka needs to walk forward in the midst of COVID-19 because the country cannot be kept shut down until COVID-19 ends, which will take another one or two years. The country and its people need to survive. The current COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka will become worse if people act irresponsibly without following all health guidelines.

The only way out is by being honest and protecting yourselves. When we protect ourselves, all others will automatically be protected; it is simple as that. Anyone can wear a mask and keep at least two metres of distance from another person. Washing hands with soap and water is essential. Cleaning hands using a sanitizer is a must whenever soap is unavailable.