Lessons from the pandemic | Daily News


Lessons from the pandemic

The Government, understandably, is cautiously optimistic in “re-opening’ the country in its totality, to end the total lockdown effected in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Several Ministers have expressed the hope that the curfew in the Colombo and Gampaha Districts could be lifted by Monday thus enabling unrestricted movement in these districts for the public.

However, health authorities are said to recommend the continuation of the indefinite curfew in these two districts until such time any Covid-19 clusters are totally de-activated. Top Government officials too had reportedly sided with the Health authorities in favour of such a course obviously since it is these two districts that had the largest number of Coronavirus cases.

Hence, the Government’s response in moving with caution during the last two weeks where it permitted a partial lifting of the lockdown in the City  allowing only Government and private establishments to commence business with a limited staff, while public transport was permitted to ferry only those providing essential services and Government and Private sector employees under strict guidelines.

However, restarting economic activity, which was the Government’s primary objective in effecting a partial lifting of the lockdown, is yet to get off the ground in earnest. No business or commercial activity is operating at full tilt. The guidelines also kept shoppers and consumers from venturing out in their numbers. There is an urgent need for getting those sectors going at full tilt. This the government is not unmindful of and is continuing to monitor the situation round the clock going by the statements of the various Government spokesmen to the media.

On the other hand, the Coronavirus is far from being conquered, though the human clusters may have been neutralized. It needs only one careless carrier to set back the whole process. They cite the examples of certain countries which, similarly, to inject  life into the economy, lifted restrictions, only to bitterly rue their decisions made in haste when these countries reverted to square one.

A second wave, therefore, is always hanging like a Sword of Damocles and the Government cannot be faulted for acting with a degree of circumspection. Perhaps, the likely postponement of the General Elections due to the health climate not being conducive for such an exercise in the absence of a “Green light” by health authorities may also hasten the hands of the Government in coming to a decision concerning the full scale reopening of the country at this stage.

While the entire nation is focused on the Coronavirus and the response of the Government to alleviate the condition, another lurking health threat is upon us which, if no timely action is taken is bound to snowball into another full blown health crisis.

For weeks, there have been warnings from the health authorities and even the Health Minister of a rapid spread of the dengue epidemic which has made its foreboding presence felt with the onset of the monsoon. The National Dengue Prevention Unit has now raised alarm that the dengue mosquito larvae density has reached a monstrous 80 percent in schools, Government departments and construction sites, which have all been lying abandoned for over two months during the curfew period and have naturally provided breeding grounds not only for dengue but also other diseases.

No doubt, the health sector has been stretched to beyond its full capacity to cope with the Coronavirus crisis. But this is no reason to bypass an equally alarming crisis which if allowed to get out of hand could make the Coronavirus pale into insignificance.

While the Coronavirus in this country has claimed only nine lives, dengue, in our experience, counts its fatalities in the hundreds countrywide. Hence, the Health Ministry should get cracking without delay in devising emergency measures to combat the dengue epidemic with the same commitment and resourcefulness its staff displayed in fighting the Coronavirus.

The Colombo Municipal Council can play an important role in this connection. It should embark on a massive clean-up campaign of the City and commence fumigation of all suspected spots harbouring the dengue mosquitoes. All hotels and eating houses in congested areas should be subjected to inspection with emphasis laid on the hygienic conditions in the preparation of food and health standards of their employees. The authorities should take prompt action to ‘smoke out’ all abandoned structures and untenanted buildings while steps should be taken to clean up all polluted canals and waterways dotting Colombo’s landscape. 

Thankfully, the Coronavirus has opened the eyes of the citizens to think anew regarding the precautions to be taken to protect themselves health wise, particularly the health guidelines to be adhered to in their interactions with society. Hopefully, these practices will come to stay, leading to the control of many other diseases such as dengue in the future. In that respect the Coronavirus pandemic will have also taught us many lessons leading to healthy lifestyles for all.

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