Overcoming multiple challenges | Daily News

Overcoming multiple challenges

The massive floods in several parts of the country could not have come at a worse time for the Government grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic. Over 200,000 persons have been displaced in the deluge triggered by monsoonal rains that lashed the country for four full days inundating large swathes of territory both in the cities and the outstations while claiming the lives of nearly 20 persons.

Thousands among the displaced will have to be accommodated in temporary shelters which could create multiple clusters of the virus given the cramped conditions in these temporary homes. It is therefore incumbent on the health authorities to ensure the displaced are accommodated in expanded shelters under strict supervision to guarantee there will be less congregating or in the alternative, accommodated in smaller numbers in a bigger number of shelters.

The Government has not only to deal with COVID-19 but also the rapid emergence of the dengue epidemic at a time medical personnel and resources are being stretched to the limit. Already a large number dengue cases has been detected in Colombo and Gampaha districts and there is bound to be a spurt of cases with the onset of the monsoonal rains. Rat fever is also emerging in several areas.

The current lockdown has complicated the situation. Merely because the Coronavirus has taken a grip on the country there can be no letting down of guard vis-a-vis dengue which is known to claim lives at a faster rate than the deadly pandemic, going by past experience. What is more, the ideal environment has also been created for the breeding of the dengue mosquito with nearly all Government and commercial establishments, local authority buildings including offices, factories and schools closed for the most part due to the lockdowns leaving them at the mercy of the elements. Even home premises have not escaped the neglect with hired help unavailable due to the prevailing lockdown.

Meanwhile, medical professionals’ associations have called for an extension of the current lockdown beyond June 14 if we are to reap the desired results, a view shared by the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) who work at the grassroots level. There could indeed be a valid rationale behind this thinking. One must consider that the Coronavirus has an incubation period of 14 days and detections thereafter (when the lockdown is lifted) will be confined only among households and not the large scale spreading of the pandemic within the society as we have been witnessing all this time.

All this of course depends on how effectively the lockdown is being enforced. The GMOA and the PHIs are not convinced. According to the Head of the PHIs Union Upul Rohana, the lockdown has been far from satisfactory with the free movement of the public still observed under various guises, defeating the whole exercise. He also made the point that the worst offenders were the elite sections and those wielding influence rather than the ordinary man.

The Government took decisive action against two Mayors of the ruling party who flouted health protocols, which we believe will send the right message to other would-be politicos of similar ilk. The action taken against a well-known fashion designer and a female model for flouting the prevailing restrictions too is a step in the right direction and a signal that the Government will not condone any misconduct from whatever quarter.

This is even more important since the public witnessed on television how the ordinary folk were being bodily removed by the Police and bundled unceremoniously into waiting buses for violating health protocols which, no doubt, created a perception that harsh treatment was reserved only for the ordinary folk. Now though it appears that things have been brought to an even keel and that the law will apply equally to all comers regardless of their stature or social standing.

Be that as it may, the authorities could afford to be optimistic that the present prolonged lockdown will bring about the desired results to some degree at least although total eradication of the pandemic from our midst would have to wait for the full complement of the vaccines that would create herd immunity. India which was reeling under the pandemic only one month ago is now reaping the benefits of the prolonged lockdowns slapped down on the worst affected States. As a result India has managed to halve the number of positive cases as well as the death figure in the intervening period. Maharashtra which took the heaviest brunt of the virus was under lockdown for nearly two months.

Perhaps, this may prompt the authorities to carry out the same experiment here as well, although Army Commander General Shavendra Silva who heads the Anti-COVID-19 drive is optimistic that the lockdown will be lifted as scheduled. However, relieving the lockdown and allowing freedom of movement should be viewed in cost-benefit terms, as a leading medico opined the other day. Is the economy and convenience of the public more important than preserving the lives of the community? That, certainly, puts it in a nutshell.