Spectre of the holiday season | Daily News

Spectre of the holiday season

Health authorities have once again warned of a looming spike in the Coronavirus cases as the countdown has already started to the festive season. Deputy Director of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath has asked those waiting to do their shopping to do so now instead of waiting for the rush which would be a surefire recipe for rapid COVID spread. Already the daily detection of positive cases is on the rise and so is the number of deaths.

The problem has been aggravated with the reluctance shown by vulnerable sections (those over 60 years of age and /or with diseases such as diabetes) to receive the jab. “We have not been able to bring the number of fatalities under control due to the people in high-risk groups forgoing the vaccine,” says Dr. Herath. Besides, there are also others outside these segments that are refusing the jab for other reasons based on religious beliefs and fallacies circulated over social media.

The problem is bound to get further aggravated with the full reopening of schools. Already a number of schools in the provinces have been shut down following the detection of Coronavirus cases in the classrooms and also among the teachers. Recently, a Southern school had to be closed down after a teacher was found to have been infected with the virus leading to a demonstration by parents opposite the school. A warning was also sounded by Lady Ridgeway Hospital’s Dr. Channa de Silva who revealed that admission of children with COVID-19 was witnessing an increase each day and the schools may have to close again if the trend continued.

“This is not a good development. Most schoolchildren are not vaccinated. Most adults have been vaccinated, and therefore do not develop COVID-19 symptoms. Hence if an adult contracts the virus and it spreads among family members, we often see symptoms in the children.”

With the lifespan of the vaccine of those who received the jab in the earlier days now exhausted and the booster vaccine rounds only in the initial stage, the danger could be doubled. Hence the need for the strongest of precautions, especially in the coming days when gatherings are bound to escalate with health protocols thrown overboard.

This we say from past experience when the restrictions were lifted during last Christmas against the advice of the PHIs and medical experts only for the country to be placed under another lockdown soon thereafter following a dramatic surge in the pandemic. The authorities should leave nothing to chance this time around. Most likely shoppers will not heed the advice of Dr. Herath and do their shopping now. They would more or less go about their shopping at the eleventh hour when the festive spirit is more pronounced. In such an atmosphere there is bound to be a letting down of the guard and for people to get carried away by the Christmas spirit.

Yesterday’s newspapers reported that Police in the Western Province in a special operation had detected over 4,000 persons who were moving about without face masks and warned nearly 10,000 others who were not wearing the face masks properly. This is a dangerous prospect and may be a snapshot of what the authorities ought to expect as the holiday season draws near that may necessitate tough measures to rein in a highly indiscipline and reckless populace.

The Health authorities would do well to ensure the graph-line stays at 700 daily cases. Any perceptible increase beyond this would have to be viewed seriously before deciding on the next step. The recent floods too have not helped matters, with those affected still in temporary shelters following the destruction of their homes, which are not exactly conducive for the observation of Corona prevention guidelines such as the distance rules with a large number of unvaccinated children huddled together in confined spaces.

Besides, the victims themselves will not be in any mood to follow guidelines, devastated as they are, which will make the Government’s task doubly difficult. This is the first time that a natural disaster of this magnitude descended in our midst in the middle of the Coronavirus leaving the authorities unprepared.

Exacerbating the situation is the news of a steep rise in the number of Dengue patients throughout the country. As of November 04, 22,902 suspected Dengue patients have been reported in the country and this number may have increased significantly with the onset of the monsoonal rains. There was a floating population of one million persons entering and leaving the Colombo City each day pre-Corona.

Now with normality back in place we will again be back at square one with all its attendant risks. With most of the suburbs and outstations now heavily urbanized there is bound to be an explosion in the circulation of people during the holiday season. The authorities therefore should act fast without leaving it too late if the situation seems to be heading for the red zone. For this time around, the devastation is bound to leave permanent scars on all aspects of life and living.

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