A commendable achievement | Daily News

A commendable achievement

According to former State Pharmaceutical Corporation (CPC) Chairman Consultant Dr. Prasanna Gunasena, Sri Lanka has completed receiving all her vaccine requirements against the Coronavirus and it took less than one year to complete this gigantic task. This indeed is a positive development for which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Government should be highly commended. It was the President who went to great lengths to secure the vaccines for this country by personally getting in touch with leaders of the vaccine producing countries at a time when the jab was in heavy demand, with many Third World countries cut off from the supplies. In all, Sri Lanka received a little over 50 million vaccine doses with the bulk of them being Sinopharm (26 million) and 6.8 million of the vaccines were received as aid mainly from China, USA and India.

The vaccine programme too went off without a hitch for which the medical staff and health workers including the PHIs should receive full credit. They all worked round the clock to ensure that the vaccines were given to different age groups on a priority basis and the vulnerable segments. The role played by the Army in organising the vaccination drive too should receive special mention, especially that of Army Commander General Shavendra Silva who also doubled up as the Head of the anti-COVID drive of the Special Task Force appointed by the President. The Army also deserves praise for setting up special quarantine centres and organising mobile vaccination teams which went a long way in minimizing the death toll and arresting the spread of the virus.

Receiving the full complement of the vaccines may seem to be a positive development on the face of it, but this should not be cause for complacency since the number of the daily infected is still of a scale that does not give a license to the public to act freely. Besides, there is still a sizable segment of the population who had not taken the jab for various reasons and it will be the task of the authorities to persuade those who are yet to receive the vaccine to do so even at this late stage. If not, all the efforts of the Government and the heavy cost incurred will be of no avail.

In this respect, the decision taken by the Health Minister to make the Vaccination Card mandatory is a move in the right direction. According to Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, while one cannot force a person to take the jab, equally that person has also no right to infect others by mingling freely while remaining unvaccinated. Perhaps making the Vaccination Card mandatory for entering public places would make those who refused the jab to come out of hiding. The booster dose too is being administered successfully reducing the fatality rate and making the public doubly immune to the virus.

However, even with the receipt of the total vaccination requirement coupled with the highly successful vaccination drive, we still cannot be said to be out of woods going by the scenarios elsewhere in the world where despite the vaccination of entire populations, cases are reappearing and climbing by the day. With the PHIs warning of a replication here too with the public abandoning all health guidelines during the festive season, worse could be expected bringing to naught the effects of the vaccines.

It would therefore be prudent for the authorities to prepare for any eventuality before being caught off guard at the last moment as has happened in most other countries which have again been forced to impose lockdowns with the surge in infections.

Meanwhile, schools for all grades reopened yesterday in a sign that the country is not far in returning to full normality, if the health guidelines are continued to be observed in the strictest terms. It would not do for the public to lull themselves into a feeling of safety merely because the full vaccine requirement has been received. In a positive step, the health experts are continuously emphasizing the need for following the guidelines which also is a pointer to the fact that the vaccines alone won’t guarantee safety. This is a timely intervention since there is evidence of the public going about things with gay abandon as if the Coronavirus never entered this country. Public transport appears to be the worst offenders, with private buses continuing to carry passengers above capacity and trains too teeming with office workers, as in the past. Add to this there are various queues being witnessed for gas and kerosene etc. where no attention is being paid to the distance rule with crowds milling together. Stricter enforcement of the health guidelines is called for under the circumstances with stiff penalties imposed against the offenders.

The way things are with the economy nothing should be left to chance that could take the country back to lockdowns, by the public behaving irresponsibly. That nightmare phase should be firmly put behind us and the people should continue to abide by the New Normal concept that the COVID pandemic has thrust on us.

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