The wisdom of unlocking | Daily News

The wisdom of unlocking

Opinion is divided over the wisdom of the Government to lift the lockdown especially in view of the detection of the deadly Delta variant. Economic as well as humanitarian considerations may have prevailed in deciding between the continuation of the lockdown and providing a token reprieve. The difficulties of communities confined to homes bearing the brunt of the shutdown without incomes may have also influenced the Government to go for the latter option.

But health experts question the wisdom of the authorities lifting the lockdown only for three days, noting that a clear picture of the month-long lockdown in terms of the number of cases would emerge only now. They say that lifting the lockdown would certainly escalate the situation especially in a scenario where the new Delta variant is threatening to get out of hand.

Besides, the country still has more than 2,000 new cases and around 50 deaths reported daily. Specialist Virologist Dr. Ananda Wijewickrema in a TV interview faulted the authorities for giving consideration to the economy over the prevailing dire health emergency.

No doubt this is the guiding principle of all health experts who insist on the continuation of the lockdown especially at a time an authentic picture will emerge as to the success or otherwise of the month-long lockdown.

The sudden lifting of the lockdown for three days, on the face of it, does not sound logical, more so when there is the real possibility of all the good work coming to naught due to the distortion of the results that is bound to ensue. From a medical perspective, this is not an ideal situation.

This, in a scenario where the New Year cluster has risen to 140,000 infected persons during a 50-day period. One should also note that although the countrywide lockdown was lifted, nearly 30 Grama Sevaka Divisions in 12 districts have been shut down.

Besides, what guarantee is there that the public will behave this time around - a misgiving expressed in no uncertain terms by State Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle. Around 70,000 vehicles were seen entering Colombo even during the lockdown period on a single day.

Even though the lockdown was enforced with dire warnings issued by the Police, many shops and markets remained open for the most part with crowds doing their shopping with no regard for the distance rule. What the position will be once the restrictions are lifted is anyone’s guess, which may go on to vindicate the fears of the medical experts that the three-day lifting of the lockdown is indeed an exercise in futility and a squandering of the advantage.

The lifting of the lockdown in the teeth of protests by the medical fraternity, who wanted a further extension based on ground realities, is therefore bound to raise many an eyebrow, from a safety perspective.

In any event, a lockdown is 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 three weeks could see an explosion of the virus in the community. What is now needed is an escalation of PCR tests not just in the high risk areas but also in other areas if the virus is to be contained to some degree.

Now that another four million vaccine doses are to arrive in the country next week at least this time around the vaccination programme should not be derailed by various hiccups. It is the breach of lockdown rules by some Mayors and even guardians of the law that caused the ordinary folk to view the whole exercise with a skeptic eye. Sadly this same attitude was witnessed among sections 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, relatives and even their domestic aides.

This should not be the case anymore and the jab must be administered according to strictly laid down WHO priority guidelines. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also expressed his distress at the alleged irregularities in the vaccination programme and wanted the deserving to receive priority. He opined that he was doing everything that was to be done for obtaining the vaccines by contacting foreign leaders and also setting apart unlimited funds for the purpose.

The Public Health Inspectors (PHIs), who are working at the grassroots in identifying Coronavirus cases, has issued a warning that the discrimination of secondary level medical workers would affect their morale leading to only half-hearted attempts to contain the virus resulting in the failure of the whole programme. All such snags and impediments in the vaccination rollout should now be removed and the programme allowed to continue smoothly according to official stipulations which would see the country turning the corner sooner rather than later in reaching the desired herd immunity goal.

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