Heightened precautions needed | Daily News

Heightened precautions needed

Even Opposition politicians readily agree that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took prompt measures to halt the spread of the Coronavirus during its initial outbreak in the country, with some grudgingly giving him the credit for the precautions taken.

This is amply borne out by the statistics, with only 11 deaths reported during the five month period the Coronavirus had continued to dwell in our midst while in the developed world the deaths from the pandemic are being counted in tens of thousands.

No doubt it was the first responses initiated by the President that helped contain the spread of the virus such as the establishment of quarantine centres, closing the airport, steps taken to confine clusters to localized levels by identifying carriers and designating No Go Zones and finally the drastic step of a total lockdown of the country before things could get out of hand.

On Tuesday, President Rajapaksa, meeting with the Coronavirus Task Force on COVID-19 assured the nation that the challenge of protecting the people until the COVID-19 is completely eradicated from the world will be met by controlling the risk of the spread of the virus from time to time within the country.

The President, no doubt, is mindful of the risks yet present in the wake of new developments vis-à-vis Kandakadu and several new cases across the country stemming from this. Several individuals including soldiers who had close contact with the Kandakadu Drug Rehabilitation Centre were found infected while many of their close associates were sent to quarantine centres, reminiscent of the situation during the initial outbreak of the virus.

This, after a lull of two to three weeks where only single digit or zero detections were reported, is a clear indication that the worst fears of the President and the health authorities have become reality - that of a lowering of the guard by the public and life proceeding on its pre-virus tone with precautions and guidelines thrown to the winds.

President Rajapaksa appealed to the public to guard against complacency when the lockdown was lifted and the country reopened for normal activity albeit under health guidelines.

But from all accounts, abiding by the guidelines had been short-lived. For example, private bus operators are resorting to their old habit of overloading ignoring specific instructions that no standing passengers should be allowed in public transport, post-COVID. The election season has exacerbated the problem with supporters being transported to cluster or pocket meetings by political parties - “pocket” being a misnomer going by the large crowds present at these political gatherings. To its credit, the SLPP has called off all major rallies expecting others too to follow suit.

President Rajapaksa has requested heads of State and private institutions to strictly follow the health guidelines in their workplaces to control the spread of COVID-19. He said people should continue the precautionary measures as the country is still facing the danger of the virus spreading.

Perhaps, already fully aware of the prevailing situation, the authorities have taken additional steps as a precaution, with a decision made not to bring prisoners to Court houses as they could be carriers of the virus with one prison inmate already being detected as being afflicted and sent into isolation.

A decision has also been taken to bar all vendors in buses and trains for the same reason. Beggars too should not be allowed into buses and trains since some among them could be carriers. Beggars have already been banned from boarding buses and trains, but they continue to board them, much to the annoyance of passengers. It is this same attitude and disregard for the laws and guidelines one sees in respect of the Coronavirus as well, which could prove fatal.

It is not certain if we are amidst a second global wave of COVID-19 which has been described as the Mother of all Pandemics by a US health expert. Already 27 States in the US have started rolling back re-openings, with 71 percent of the American parents not in favour of sending their children to school, according to CNN. India too has already re-imposed restrictions that were temporarily withdrawn while the Head of the World Health Organization has painted a very grim picture of the emerging trends.

Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe has ruled out a second wave in the wake of the Kandakadu episode saying that clusters emanating from the Rehabilitation Centre were being isolated, preventing a social spread of the virus. This is good news indeed. It is however vital to keep the public informed of the latest health situation via the media and impress upon them the importance of redoubling their efforts in adhering to the regulations and the guidelines in place. Any let up in this regard could negate the major gains we have made in the fight against COVID, which has received praise from many quarters including the World Health Organisation.

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