Urgent remedy needed | Daily News

Urgent remedy needed

As the nation marks the first anniversary of the COVID vaccination drive today, the PHIs have come out strongly against the Government for not taking adequate measures to counter the anti-vaccination propaganda which has led to people shying away from the booster dose, leading to a drastic surge in the daily detection of infections.

PHI Union Head Upul Rohana says that people who showed much enthusiasm in obtaining the double vaccines, were today not coming out in their numbers to obtain the booster. He accused health officials of doing little to counter the anti-vaccine propaganda carried out over social media and even observed that certain medical experts and indigenous medical practitioners had contributed to the negative sentiments entertained by the public towards the booster dose.

If the PHI Union Head is to be believed, a very serious situation is on the cards regarding the infection rate. The booster is a must to counter the latest Omicron strain. According to Rohana, although daily detections hover around the 900 mark the actual figure could be well over 2,500. He notes that during the Delta wave, health officials carried out over 25,000 PCR tests but now there were only 12,000 Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) being carried out daily. Only those with a high virus load will respond to the RAT. But even those who do not have a high virus load can spread the disease.

Of course, many medical experts went to great lengths to allay fears of the public vis-a-vis the vaccines from the very inception of the outbreak and this was the case even with regard to the booster dose. However, from all appearances, social media had overwhelmed such advice. However, in one aspect the PHI Union Head is right. Health officials are not doing enough to counter the negative propaganda with facts and figures. The Health Ministry too had not taken any action against those who disseminate anti-vaccine sentiments. Now the wrong ideas are firmly rooted among a significant number of people.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has already spoken of making the Vaccination Card mandatory to enter public places. There is talk of including the booster vaccine too to make one deemed fully vaccinated, enabling entry to public places. It is hoped that this works to force those who are reluctant to get the booster dose and render this country a safe place to inhabit.

A stepped up campaign is called for to educate the public and for dispelling myths and unfounded fears. According to reports, it is the youth population that is shying away from the booster jab due to fears of losing virility. Ideally, a panel of reproductive health experts should appear on television and set the record straight, exploding all myths conveyed through social media.

The PHIs warned during the pre-festive season that relaxing the restrictions would lead to runaway infections. Now their predictions have come to pass - with a vengeance. There are once again stampedes in hospitals to admit COVID patients and fears have been expressed that bed capacity would run out. The rate of infections among children is showing a steep rise with a heavy influx reported at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital. Health authorities are also urging parents not to send their children to school if they had developed any symptoms such as fever. The raging dengue epidemic has certainly complicated matters, with similar symptoms shown in the case of both COVID and dengue.

Around 35 COVID cases are being detected daily within the Colombo City which according to CMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ruwan Wijajamuni was at a satisfactory level compared to other areas with around 150 Rapid Antigen tests carried out daily. Still the country’s overall picture appears grim given that there were only 300 or so daily detections of positive cases in the pre-festive days. That this has now risen several fold, going by the observations of the PHIs, indeed portends ill for the immediate future which would undermine all the efforts expended and financial resources spent in the early days to combat the virus.

With the mounting number of cases and children increasingly falling victim it would be advisable for the authorities to put off the GCE (A/L) examinations slated to commence next week. The authorities should also consider reimposing some of the earlier measures that were withdrawn following the improvement in the situation, such as the ‘Work From Home’ concept. This would also serve to conserve precious electricity, obviate the need for power cuts and save fuel used for vehicles.

Offices and workplaces are once again reporting high numbers of COVID infections and the risk of it spreading further cannot be avoided if adequate precautions are not taken. The Government will not want to go for a full-scale lockdown again given the implications on the economy. We won't be in a position to start all over again given the beating the economy has already taken. However there is also an urgent need for overcoming the immediate health emergency. The Government certainly is placed in a dilemma. A well thought out action plan is needed right now.


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