Expedite battle against COVID-19 | Daily News

Expedite battle against COVID-19

With large swathes of territory going under lockdown by the hour and medical experts vocal in their assertions that the country needs to be shut down at this critical stage the authorities, indeed, would have to reassess their options if we are not to witness a situation similar to that of India.

According to President of the Sri Lanka Medical Officers Association Dr. Padma Gunaratne, the next two weeks are going to be decisive. If the people fail to change their lifestyles, set routines, and ignore the health regulations there is nothing to prevent the scenes in India being replicated here as well. She said the detection of nearly 2,000 patients a day could only be the tip of the iceberg and there could be around 6,000 who were not subjected to PCR testing and going under the radar. Worse, the new strain has even made children who were earlier deemed immune to the virus vulnerable, with young students in many Colombo schools reportedly being infected. Even those who received the first jab too are now in the risk category with between 60 percent to 65 percent susceptible to contracting the virus, according to Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera.

The delay in the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine has further complicated matters as it could outlive the gestation period of 12 weeks for those who received the first jab. The new variants too have added another layer of complexity. The Association of Medical Specialists has warned that stocks of Oxygen are likely to be in short supply and asked the authorities to prepare for any contingency. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has reportedly been updated on the availability of Oxygen supplies with plans also being made to import Oxygen should the need arise.

There is no denying that the situation is grim. For the first time since the outbreak of the virus, the daily number of positive cases has topped the 1,500 mark and deaths too are rising. The authorities are going to great lengths to control the spread of the virus even to the extent of erecting makeshift hospitals and earmarking space for Coronavirus patients in all other hospitals in the country with even the Ayurveda Hospitals coming to the rescue.

Unfortunately though little is witnessed by way of cooperation from the public, who, from what we are seeing, has failed to realise the gravity of the situation. Television showed a police team swooping down on a huge party of river bathers while playgrounds are being cleared of crowds participating in sports activities with no regard for restrictions.

Market places and public transport too are being subject to regular raids where many are hauled up for either not wearing face masks or failing to comply with the distance rule. The mass arrest of offenders is apparently having no deterrent effect which should make the law enforcement think of more drastic measures if we are to avoid falling into a dark abyss. Those who may have witnessed TV footage of the scenes in India could not have failed to grasp the reality. Or are the violators of health guidelines unaware of the unfolding situation in our neighbouring country?

Today the Indian Capital New Delhi is threatened with being completely wiped out with the city turned into a mass funeral house. Does the public here want a similar situation here?

Meanwhile, a fervent appeal has gone to the public and politicians of all hues from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to treat the present health catastrophe as a national emergency, calling on all sides to act with a sense of responsibility. He stated that this was not the time to oppose every move made by the Government to combat the Coronavirus, with a view to scoring political points and by not cooperating to tackle the problem, the true intentions of certain political parties are being exposed.

“At this moment some are criticizing certain actions taken by the Government to control the Coronavirus. In a crisis of this proportion it is not the right thing to take political advantage. Instead, all should act exemplarily by putting aside criticisms and helping to control the Coronavirus by placing the country and the people before everything else,” the Premier stated.

In a welcome development, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa has struck a conciliatory note by hinting at giving politics a moratorium to see off the crisis. In a televised address, the Opposition Leader said they of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) have gone into a political truce and are ready to do their utmost to save the lives of the 21 million people of this country. “I urge all political parties to do the same and forget their differences at a time such as this when the country has come to a standstill as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

This ought to be the standpoint and spirit of the Opposition at a time the country is in grave peril. Hopefully, the rest of the members of the SJB will be of the same thinking as their leader.