Seeing through the crisis | Daily News


Seeing through the crisis

With the Coronavirus pandemic assuming serious proportions globally the Lankan authorities are contemplating drastic measures to combat the crisis in line with other nations the world over where it has taken a heavy toll. One of the measures already being talked about is the restriction of public gatherings that lend themselves to high risk situations, according to Health Ministry sources.

With the first detection of a positive Coronavirus (COVID-19) victim in Sri Lanka, needless to say, all precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, however much these measures inconvenience the public not to mention any disruption of the franchise. Neighbouring Maldives where already two positive cases have been detected has indefinitely put off its local council elections, and, what is more several Western countries with all the wherewithal at their disposal to combat epidemics of this nature are enforcing total shut downs, with America, no less, closing the door to all citizens from Western countries.

According to a media report Lankan Health authorities are closely monitoring the situation and studying the mode of transmission of the Coronavirus from country to country. It has already cautioned against large scale public gatherings if the situation worsens.

At the outset of the global Coronavirus outbreak the Health Ministry announced that with no confirmed cases in Sri Lanka and the strict preventive measures in place there will be no immediate restrictions placed. However now that the first detection has been made speedier action will have to be taken lest things get out of hand. The Ministry is already on record as stating that if there is an uncontrollable spread and if Sri Lanka is at a very high risk of importing the virus into the country it will be compelled to take decisive action.

What form will this action take? Certainly, preventing large scale gatherings is one solution. The vast expansion of the visual media could certainly obviate large scale election gatherings. Candidates are also provided with the time slots in the electronic media to address the public. With different private television channels rooting for different political parties the parties can expect the maximum mileage from their favourite TV channels to get the message across.

However, with the PR system in force and the Manapey battle bound to be at its fiercest this time around there can be no substitute for the personal touch, meaning personal interaction between the candidates and the voters. A candidate has also to canvass in a whole district which entails house-to-house campaigning and holding election rallies in all the electorates in the district if the candidate is to have any chance of success. Can the authorities prevent such a situation is the question.

Besides, this is the big match season. Although some of the encounters are over the big’uns are already in full swing with thousands of schoolboys and spectators enjoying the action virtually cheek by jowl in cramped enclosures. Can the health authorities persuade the school authorities to put off these sporting extravaganzas, given the serious situation even at this late hour?

True, these events are tradition bound with many Old Boys arriving from foreign lands to cheer their schools and enjoy the bonhomie and camaraderie. What is more some 200 members of the Barmy Army are set to arrive from Old Blighty to cheer the England cricketers now here for a two Test series. The English team themselves have taken serious note of the risk and have decided not to extend the traditional handshake with anyone during the tour.

The Government is working overtime to ensure that proper precautions are taken – without essentially thinking about the cost to the economy. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already issued orders to halt ‘on arrival’ visas to all foreign nationals. This is an understandable precaution since by Tuesday Coronavirus cases globally had surpassed 100,000, with the death toll eclipsing 4,000. Of course the Lankan economy is bound to take a beating with the tourist industry being dealt a crippling blow, offsetting any gain that may accrue to the Government from the drop in the global fuel prices. But desperate situations call for desperate action and the Government is left with no choice.

This is not to say that the public should go into panic mode, cease all normal activity and remain indoors. The last few days saw some irrational conduct on the part of groups who demonstrated against setting up quarantine centres in their areas to screen suspected Coronavirus cases. There were also some returnees from countries such as South Korea and Italy- two of the worst hit by the virus - refusing to have themselves quarantined for reasons of inconvenience and discomfort. It is time all citizens co-operated with the authorities to see through the crisis situation keeping in mind that all precautions taken are for the benefit of the public to keep them away from contracting the virus.

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