Of containment and optimism | Daily News

Of containment and optimism

The news about US President Trump and his wife is alarming, and that they have been stricken by Covid-19 at this rather late stage of the pandemic is an indication of the lingering nature of this contagion. The news coincides with the imposition of police curfew in the Divulapitiya and Minuwangoda police divisions in the Gampaha district in this country.

President Trump has released a video from his hospital bed. He says that he is the president of the greatest country on earth, and that he could not have stayed holed-up in the the spacious upper quarters of the White House, as he says was suggested to him.

That’s certainly one way of looking at meeting the challenges of the pandemic. It’s a risk-inherent perspective.

That’s a difficult chance to take in many countries that fear their medical facilities will be inundated if the pandemic is not strictly controlled. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dispatched his message wishing a quick recovery for President Trump and the first lady.

It’s common knowledge that president Trump is blamed by many in his own country for his approach to the pandemic. That’s a reaction that’s internal to the United States, even though global reaction sometimes has not been kind to Mr. Trump as well.

But, what the US president cannot be faulted for is his attitude that exudes confidence. Though stricken with a dangerous disease, he is speaking in terms of bouncing back, and doing so as soon as possible. Some of the disease’s victims are stricken so badly, that they are not in a position to be as sanguine as Mr. Trump is, even at such an early stage of the sickness.

But the US President is known to be a fighter, and his attitude is in keeping with his general outlook to life. In Sri Lanka, we are not out of the woods yet, despite the remarkable containment efforts that kept the disease at bay and helped in the resumption of virtually normal civilian life.

All that changes, in Divulapitiya and Minuwangoda today. The authorities will deploy the tried and tested method of military personnel working with the health sector workers, to track trace and isolate any victims.

How did the disease break out in these areas? No epidemiological link has been found so far, at the time of writing. There was no Covid-19 in the country, and it would be reasonable to surmise that the virus may have found a route out of the strict isolation regimen imposed on travelers from abroad who are basically Sri Lankan returnees.

At this point, everything is conjecture, and everybody would be advised to keep their ears to the ground for the official version of events in this regard, and avoid speculation. There have been similar isolated outbreaks before, especially with regard to the Welisara Navy camp as would be remembered, but a strict policy of track and isolate worked on those occasions.

What is the long term prognosis for the global trajectory of this contagion? It would be difficult to tell, but at least a few trends are promising. President Trump himself was confident that a vaccine is well on its way, even though the health sector experts in the US were more circumspect.

But apparently the US President has been given antibody injections. Is it not possible for such treatments to be made available as soon as possible globally as a viable alternative for a vaccine, that could be used on a mass scale?

The science regarding that is unknown. However, the fact is that there are treatments that are not accessible to ordinary people, even though they are available to the US President.

That’s the nature of early approach containment strategy in an epidemic of this scale and magnitude. Blaming Mr. Trump has become a pastime in some quarters, but he is not to be faulted for the lack of treatments in many parts of the world in a situation in which nobody - not even the most powerful and well-equipped in the global village - have been able to identify efficacious cures, and make them available on a viable mass scale.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, was coming out of a period of economic malaise after a period of extended shut down. The roads were clogged with traffic once more, and even though generally the reaction to unmanageable traffic is to grin and bear it, there was palpable relief among people that things had returned to absolute normal.

That sense of complacency is not appropriate, as the events in Minuwangoda now indicate. There is no need for panic, as this most recent outbreak appears to be isolated and manageable in terms of containment.

But there cannot be any relaxation of vigilance. Public transportation is back to normal and the ‘dragnet’ in Minuwangoda and Divulapitiya has to work, to ensure that there will be no porous dissemination of the virus to other districts and areas from the stricken regions.

The people will have to rely on the Forces, the high-command and the health sector to approach the issue with the remarkable ingenuity with which they did so on the earlier occasions in which the outbreaks threatened civilian activity in all but a few of the provinces.

The disease is here to stay for a long time into the future perhaps, and there seems to be no alternative at the moment to eternal vigilance, and smart tracing with disciplined isolation - and a hope and a prayer to go with that.