A new beginning | Daily News

A new beginning

The three week long lockdown imposed by the Government to control the spread of the Coronavirus is likely to be lifted on Monday. However, the lockdown is to be lifted in the face of misgivings by the medical fraternity who wanted a further extension, based on the ground realities.

They opined that the current lockdown had not brought about the desired results with the casualty rate on the rise. The lockdowns, they maintained, were only one way of containing the spread of the virus and other factors too should be brought into the equation. In practical terms, the views of the medical experts have a ring of authenticity. Based on the premise that there is a 14 day gestation period before a carrier is exposed, lifting the lockdown after just three weeks could see an explosion of the virus in the community. True, there would have been carriers who had already infected others before going into lockdown.

Was the current lockdown effective and the intended targets achieved? Not so, going by the present data. The daily infected figure still stands at over 2,500 and the death rate has risen by as much 28 percent over the pre- lockdown days. Could this be the result of the lockdown being observed in the breach or the lockdown coming too late? Some of the expert medical opinion tended to go with the latter school of thought. Now with the Alpha variant being found in many districts some argue whether it is prudent to lift the lockdown, more so since this time too the people have proved to be careless and negligent.

It was reported that over 100,000 vehicles entered Colombo during just two days of the current lockdown and one can only guess what the total active vehicle population was during the three week period. True, a vast majority of these were destined for Essential Services but it was also revealed that a good portion of the occupants of these vehicles had abused the leeway given and had ventured out on private jaunts.

The enforcers of the lockdown too did not exactly cover themselves with glory in this respect. There were reports of a group of the khakied gentry removing a stock of liquor from a Government-owned Sathosa outlet in Anuradhapura during the lockdown at a time when wine stores, bars and liquor outlets had been sealed by the Excise Department. There was also the instance where a Police Constable who stopped a lady jogger doing her workouts, who, it later transpired, happened to be the wife of a police big wig, being transferred for executing his duties to the letter.

One would have thought that the enforcers of the law would show the way to the lesser minions by conducting them in an exemplary fashion. No wonder the ordinary folk viewed the whole exercise with a skeptic eye and went on their merry way. Sadly this same attitude is witnessed among the high echelons of the medical profession with regard to the vaccination programme with a premier doctors’ trade union accused of jumping the queue in affording the jab to their family members and relatives. All secondary health workers including nurses / laboratory technicians and midwives staged a token strike in all hospitals islandwide while the Grama Sevakas, Development Officers and Samurdhi officials in the Western Province, who are in the thick of the fight against the pandemic, withdrew from the vaccination programme yesterday over the alleged denial of promised allowances by the authorities while the doctors had their stipends doubled. They claim they too were part and parcel of the anti-COVID drive and their family members were equally at risk and deserve the consideration of the authorities.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also expressed his distress at the alleged irregularities in the vaccination programme and wanted the deserving to receive priority for the jab. He noted he was doing everything possible to obtain the vaccines by contacting foreign leaders and also setting apart unlimited funds.

The PHIs, working at the grassroots in identifying Coronavirus cases, has warned that the discrimination of secondary level medical workers would affect their morale leading to only halfhearted attempts to contain the virus resulting in the failure of the whole programme.

All this of course goes to demonstrate that the anti-COVID drive is not devoid of snags, despite the best efforts of the President. This time around (after the lockdown) a cohesive programme should be put in place to mount a challenge against the contagion with health experts placed in the driver’s seat. No politician should be brought into the equation and no favoritism should be entertained in the administration of the vaccine, with the jab given to those in the order of the WHO list.

All stakeholders in the anti-COVID drive should receive equal treatment and consideration since any lowering of morale could unhinge the entire programme. The possible lifting of the lockdown on Monday should be considered as a new beginning to encounter the challenge with renewed energy and single-minded purpose by all those involved.

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