A prudent move | Daily News

A prudent move

The Government’s decision to make refusal to obtain both COVID jabs punishable under the law is a prudent step given the urgency for such drastic action due to the new emergency situation following the advent of the Omicron strain of the Coronavirus. Perhaps, the detection of the female with the Omicron variant unvaccinated, due allegedly to religious beliefs forced the Government’s hand in this regard.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella made the announcement that henceforth obtaining both vaccine doses would be made compulsory under the law at an event in Hataraliyedda on Wednesday. The Minister told the media that they had decided to follow other countries which had taken certain measures to keep their countries open amidst the pandemic. “We have to think about the economy. Although Government employees continue to receive their salaries there are a large segment of others who have been deprived of an income due to pandemic driven restrictions. Therefore we have to take certain steps to ease their burden. Towards this end we have decided to make obtaining both vaccines compulsory under the law”.

The worsening spread of the Coronavirus too may have hastened the Government’s decision. It is reported that during the past seven days alone 5,205 COVID-19 cases had been detected while deaths amounted to 171 during the same period. There are also 77 COVID patients receiving ICU treatment. Since December 2, the number of positive cases being detected stood at between 700 and 760, a rise by some 44 per cent since October when the graph steadied somewhat around 500. According to Dr. Anvar Hamdani, COVID-19 Chief Coordinating Director of the Health Ministry they have reserved 17,155 beds for COVID-19 patients at 159 centres and there are already 7,669 patients occupying these beds.

The situation certainly looks grim and with the festive season all ready to break out into an explosion in the coming days there is no knowing what is in store for the country in the New Year. Frighteningly, schools too have now fallen victim to a great degree, including leading schools in the City where cases are being reported. The problem, no doubt, is exacerbated with the carriers of the virus not showing symptoms leaving room for an infected student to spread the contagion.

The rash of protests too is not helping. Television showed Government servants protesting for a pay hike conducting themselves in a most irresponsible manner, with some of the union leaders themselves captured mask-less in front page pictures. If this state of affairs were to continue, even the legally enforced vaccinations are not going to help. As is already known several prominent figures including politicians and artistes who had taken both jabs succumbed to the virus. It is therefore vital for the public to strictly adhere to the health protocols. But we don’t see this happening.

Private buses continue to carry their capacity loads and trains ply as in the pre-Coronavirus days, with the commuters spilling out of the compartments. Workplaces continue to report positive cases in increasing numbers, calling into question the prudence of calling back the full complement of staff instead of making do with a core group that would have been sufficient to make the offices functional.

Medical experts and PHIs raised fears about relaxing the restrictions the last time around and the country was made to suffer the consequences, with lengthy lockdowns crippling the economy. It looks like history is going to repeat itself going by the laissez-faire attitude displayed by the public. It is as if there never was a pandemic in this country. Worse, at a time when schools are becoming increasingly vulnerable, sports events such as rugby that necessarily call for body contact are being organised while spectators are allowed to witness the current franchise cricket matches, albeit only those having taken both jabs.

All this is indicative that the country is back to normal while at the same time health professionals appear daily on television issuing dire warnings of another deadly outbreak of the pandemic if the public continues to put their guard down. In this context, the move made by the authorities to have all supermarkets and shopping centres kept under check is a prudent one. It is felt that at the peak of Christmas shopping in the coming days these supermarkets may allow entry to more than the permitted capacity in order to cope with the numbers. This situation is fraught with risk as crowds gathering inside air-conditioned premises in large numbers are highly vulnerable. The festive spirit may also force crowds to part with safety measures such as the distance rule. Already the pavements in the Fort and Pettah are teeming with hawkers and so are the crowds with disaster staring in the face since wearing masks and distance rules are invariably observed in the breach by the very nature of the business.

The authorities should act fast before it is too late to install a proper monitoring process to salvage the situation. Lessons from the past should be taken to heart. One cannot be too careful in the present situation.

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