A prudent move | Daily News

A prudent move

The decision taken by the Government and political parties not to hold May Day rallies is a prudent one given the dire situation facing the country as a result of an irresponsible public who deigned to ignore all health guidelines during the festive season. At a Party Leaders’ meeting at the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 presided by its head Army Commander General Shavendra Silva it was decided to call off the May Day rallies due to the prevailing high risk situation.

Besides, May Day being what it is in this country, it would be well-nigh impossible to expect inebriated crowds bused in from the outstations to city venues to observe the distance rule and other health guidelines. Also with the Workers’ Day being made a mockery with politics and politicians playing the dominant role the accent no doubt will be on the crowd sizes that could be drawn by each political party in a show of strength, regardless of the prevailing guidelines. We saw this identical situation during the General Elections where such warnings were thrown overboard by all political parties. Just as in Colombo, the situation could aggravate even in the outstations particularly in the plantations where May Day rallies draw huge crowds.

It would only need one spark to set off a conflagration as far as the relatively virus free outstations are concerned. May Day is rather a redundant event in this country and has lost the allure and attraction from the days when the pro-worker Marxist parties held sway. What was once an event reserved for the workers to air their grievances and assert their rights has today been hijacked by politicians. Workers themselves are partly responsible for this state of affairs in allowing the politicians to ride piggyback on their shoulders and steering their struggles in a different direction.

Hence it is futile in precipitating another health risk in the country through a non-event. The JVP and its offshoot the Peratugamis it is reported are planning to defy the ban and hold their respective May Day rallies. The authorities should come down hard on those acting contrary to the directives of the health authorities from whichever quarter. The New Year fiasco ought to have opened the eyes of the authorities of what is in store if more leeway is granted. Perhaps the Rathu Sahodarayas whose electoral fortunes have plummeted to new lows expect to lift the morale of their cadres by bringing in the crowds.

It was the PHIs who insisted that May Day rallies be cancelled owing to the worsening situation, according to media reports. PHI Union President Upul Rohana predicted a definite rise of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks due to the callous disregard for health restrictions by the public during the festive season. He did not rule out a situation like in India where the careless conduct by the public who indulged in mass ritual bathing in holy rivers and thronging Hindu festivals and political rallies in their hundreds of thousands have turned that country into a health nightmare today where the daily count of COVID-19 positive cases reaches 300,000 and the daily death toll over 2,000. Rohana said Sri Lanka was also facing a critical situation in terms of the spread of the Coronavirus.

At least on this occasion the authorities have paid heed to the PHIs in clamping down on free movement. It was the same advice that the PHIs gave prior to Christmas only for the authorities to ignore them at a huge cost heralding another outbreak, after the country was relatively free of the virus during the preceding months. The top echelons of the Government have taken a serious view of the situation. Cabinet Spokesman Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said it was regrettable that the public failed to pay heed to the health warnings during the festive season. He asked the people to stay calm assuring that the Government was confident that the rise in the infections will be contained. He said nearly one million people in Colombo and Gampaha have been vaccinated and hence the chances of the virus spreading were limited.

Here a word of caution is in order. The second dose of the vaccine is yet in coming and until then the people are certainly exposed to the risk. There is no guarantee that even after the second dose the vaccine will be foolproof. Some people in India who received both doses of the vaccine had still contracted the virus. India, despite being the largest producer of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now only second behind the US in the number of infected and the numbers are rising each day at an alarming rate so much so it is short of hospital beds and fast running out of oxygen cylinders and ventilators, according to NDTV News. Hence over-reliance on the vaccine would prove to be costly here too and it should be drilled into the minds of the public that strict observance of the health guidelines is the only safe bet for avoiding the deadly virus.