A silver lining | Daily News

A silver lining

A silver lining has emerged across the dark clouds with several congested areas in Colombo city which were hitherto reeling under the Coronavirus now reporting a much reduced number of cases, no doubt a direct result of the first vaccine dose administered to a large segment of the City populace.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is heavily relying on vaccines to bail the country out of the pandemic and first signs appear to be favourable if the result in Colombo city is anything to go by. Of course, to be completely immune from the virus the second jab is necessary and the delay in the arrival of the second dose is going to hamper the vaccine programme. The Mix and Match option is now being researched to ascertain if the administering of different vaccines to the same individual will work. This is going to take time and in the meantime, we must make do with what is available.

The dire situation is India has slowed down the arrival of the vaccines on time although 15,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine were delivered to Colombo on Monday. The recovery in Colombo though is an indicator that the first jab has proved its efficacy at least to some degree in preventing the spread of the virus. It was feared that those who received the first jab were vulnerable until the second dose was received. The opinion of medical experts that 60 percent immunity could be expected after the first jab seemed to be having a ring of truth vis-a-vis the diminished case numbers in Colombo.

However it is too early to draw conclusions if the good showing in congested areas in Colombo was indeed owing to the fist jab or if this was the result of city folk strictly abiding by health protocols. State Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle has stated that the vaccine alone cannot do wonders and that discipline on the part of the public was equally vital in preventing the virus spread. She was among the medical fraternity who recommended restrictions of movement during the New Year festival, echoing the sentiments of the PHIs.

If Colombo city is showing encouraging results the same could not be said of the rest of the country where a runway spread of the contagion is being witnessed with lockdowns being imposed in different locations in rapid succession. For the first time since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the number of cases has topped 1,000 each for five days running with the highest ever yet of 1,891 cases reported on Monday. That the situation is grim is driven home by Dr. Fernandopulle who asserts that the number of cases within the next two weeks could rise to between 8,000 to 10,000 if the people drop their guard and conduct themselves irresponsibly. If the worst scenario comes true, will our hospitals be able to cope?

Already reports indicate that bed capacity is fast running out and even if cases are accommodated in makeshift or improvised hospitals, if the numbers keep multiplying the way it does medical care is bound to reach a breaking point and medical staff pushed to the wall. Already Deputy Director General of Health Services (DDGHS) Dr. S.M. Arnold has warned against overtaxing the Health Sector’s capacity to increase ICU care to COVID-19 patients. He cautioned that if the number of cases increases exponentially they would be hard put to cope with the demand, although there was no immediate alarm on this score with the occupancy rate of ICU beds at 35 percent.

It is not just the case of ICU beds alone, as explained by the doctor, but the question of manning them with competent staff. According to reports there is only one nurse for every 12 ICU beds. It is also not just a matter of deploying any nurse to handle the task but the problem lies in finding competent ones. After all, it takes a couple of years to master the workings of say, an ICU ventilator. With the pandemic swooping on us without warning there indeed was insufficient time to train nursing staff on these lines.

India has deployed interns and final year MBBS students to assist in the fight against COVID under the supervision of senior medical officers to cope with the dire situation in the country with dozens of medical professionals in the field themselves dying from the pandemic. If push comes to shove we too should adopt a similar course, because with the increasing number of positive cases the doctors and medical staff may well reach a crisis point.

How things pan out though will depend on the conduct of the general public. But it appears that little heed is being paid in certain quarters to the stern warnings. With wedding receptions banned in hotels for two weeks the merriment it appears is being shifted to private homes. Police have also raided spots where drinking sprees are held by large gatherings not paying any heed to the health warnings. What danger point are we to reach for the people to realize their folly?