The cost of complacency | Daily News

The cost of complacency

Have the worst fears expressed in these spaces on the dangers posed by the unrestricted movement of the public during the festive season come to pass? According to the latest reports, a surge in Coronavirus cases has been observed in several areas in the aftermath of the New Year festivities with medical experts fearing a possible ‘third wave’ of the pandemic. At least two villages in the Kurunegala district have been placed under virtual lockdown with some 2,000 persons in 500 families sent into quarantine following the detection of a number of positive cases.

The outstations that were relatively free of the pandemic, it appears, have now caught the bug well and truly, with the large influx of people from the cities to the rural outback to celebrate Avurudu. This, despite warnings by the Director National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH) Dr. Hasitha Attanayake of the real possibility of an “Avurudu Cluster” if the public dropped their guard and acted irresponsibly.

The Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) too have reported a drastic surge in COVID-19 from several areas in the island and they blamed the free movement of the people during the New Year season, disregarding the heath restrictions for the current state of affairs. The Secretary of the PHI’s Union Mahendra Balasuriya called for increasing the number of PCR tests from the current level if they are to prevent another wave in the coming days. He lamented that despite strict instructions being issued to the public to observe the prevailing guidelines during the festive season, they were observed in the breach and now the country would have to brace for the consequences. It is this very same warning that the PHIs, who work with the grassroots, issued during the Christmas season urging the authorities to continue with the lockdowns in Colombo, which went unheeded resulting in a huge spike in the contagion. What is more, Colombo which was witnessing a drop in the number of cases is once again under the radar with fears of a new variant being spoken of in medical circles. According to Chief Medical Officer of the CMC Dr. Ruwan Wijeyamuni, a new variant of the virus with a very high risk of transmissibility has been found to be circulating in Colombo, by medical researchers at the Sri Jayawardenepura University. He has called for the immediate shutting down of all nightclubs, entertainment spots, gyms and also the cancellation of wedding receptions and parties.

This certainly is a dire warning which is an indication that all is not well. The reopening of all schools after a one year hiatus too could not have come at a worse time. Not just in the classroom, the risk also is prevalent in the school vans where the distance rule is bound to be flouted. Even public transport such as trains and buses too are back to business overloading beyond capacity despite warnings by the Police and the Ministers concerned that only seating accommodation is allowed.

It certainly seems that complacency on the part of the public has brought the country back into this situation. It is this same behaviour that was witnessed in India too after the initial harsh crackdowns by the police, with teeming masses attending ritual bathings and Hindu festivals in their hundreds of thousands that has brought that country almost to its knees today with the detection of new cases topping 300,000 on a daily basis and deaths averaging 1,500 a day with the total Coronavirus infected nudging 15 million, only behind US on a global scale, having overtaken Brazil. This, in a country which is the world’s number one producer of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine, which has been given to more than 100 million Indians.

The situation could escalate here as well what with the delays in the arrivals of the second dosage which could negate the effect of the first jab. How safe are those who will have to settle only for the first dosage though medical opinion suggests that there is around 60 percent immunity in those who received the first dose? Certainly not from the evidence and the ground situation when one considers the global picture.

Most countries in the West which lifted the lockdowns are today in a far worse situation than before having to clamp down even harsher restrictions such as the closure of all schools and blanket bans on social activity. With the situation in our neigbourhood growing dire each day, we too are bound to experience its fallout sooner rather than later and every precaution should be put in place without delay even if we have to go back to lockdowns however injurious this would be to the economy.

The public this time around should strictly be made to fall in line and severe punishment meted out to violators of the health regulations. As Dr. Hasitha Attanayake said when he issued a warning vis-a-vis New Year shopping: “You have to think about what is important. New Year clothes, or the lives of your family members”. This ought to be the main guiding principle.