Priority is to control Covid-19 | Sunday Observer

Priority is to control Covid-19

2 May, 2021
Burning Covid-19 victims in India
Burning Covid-19 victims in India

Images from Indian television explains the real situation and the danger of Covid-19 that has reached our doorstep. Who is at fault is not the matter in question. It is the remedy that matters today.

It is simple logic and truth that if we are careful individually the benefit will be reaped collectively by all, therefore, be careful of your movements and that of the family and around. Time has come to treat this disaster above politics and other considerations as the day is nearing when we will have no control over the situation.

We cry for India and the disaster is spreading far and wide. Still the blame game continues and parties accuse each other.

A few specialists are always on the media giving conflicting and uncertain information on facts, figures and other considerations portraying themselves as actors while enjoying the voice cuts on electronic media outlets and other platforms.

The Army Commander is doing an excellent job but yet appears to be a lonely parrot confined to limits and lacking joint cooperation of all players concerned. He is said to be the head of the task force with no battery of experts. He is not the best man but in the circumstances there appears to be no one else.

The situation appears to be worsening rapidly without a hard centralised action under a powerful task force consisting of big players including the Army Commander. Cost of living, economy, debts and Port City may be priorities but not at all above the pandemic dragon. News received from India, Nepal and neighbouring countries are shockingly sad and disturbing giving shock waves to all warning us to be cautious and take precautionary measures before the horse bolts. Whether we are on the track scientifically and methodically is the issue.

The ‘Manning Market’ was suddenly closed without making alternate arrangements for the incoming lorry loads of vegetables from the upcountry that led to chaos, which is one of the issues of mismanagement and absence of planning. The Dambulla Economic Centre was abruptly closed without giving alternatives to farmers bringing vegetables to it.

Who is to be blamed and who is responsible is not our issue - our issue is that the damage is done escalating the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the centre of Colombo. The elected government and officials are bound to give alternative solutions.

Incidents in Nuwara Eliya, the North-Eastern Province and India are bad precedents. The situation in India is worsening and the situation in Sri Lanka is fast reaching dangerous levels. There appear to be no proper leadership or strategy, scientific or otherwise and a centralised leadership and a program other than waiting for orders from above!

Think back on tsunami disaster

Think back on ‘’tsunami’’ - another major disaster we had gone through with uniting efforts of all. All got together as one unit and a family and drew up plans instantaneously, harnessing all resources and efforts led by the religious leaders and the media, above politics and all other considerations.

The current threat is no second to that, and may be worse than the tsunami disaster and has to be taken very seriously. Let us face realities today. The Government is in power for a period the people has decided with an overwhelming majority and it is the duty of all to respect the mandate and rally around in this disastrous situation. The duty of the opposition is no to collapse the status quo but instead to cooperate and join hands to contain the pandemic.

One of the major obstructions in the fight against the pandemic is misinformation by many including the media, specialists giving conflicting views and opinions, and of course the vociferous opposition opposing every step taken by the government, which massive campaigns of misinformation the people tend to believe, which is unfortunate.

Every one of us should be serious including the administration and the opposition. Classic examples are the celebrations in Nuwara Eliya organised by non-other than the Mayor, cart celebrations in North-East and large scale celebrations in India, not far from our shores, despite the sad, heart-breaking pandemic in that country.

The other irresponsible matter is that India is campaigning and holding elections despite hundreds of deaths in hospitals and on the road and with thousands of people looking for space to dispose the bodies of loved ones. Covid- 19 respects no borders. The two countries will be invaded unless precautions are taken.

Ferocious nature

Despite the danger and ferocious nature of the pandemic, the advice and directions of health experts are simple and easy to follow despite the economic downturns and living conditions including the cost of living and scarcity of consumer items.

Instructions are simple - keep the required distance, be clean and wash hands thoroughly, avoid travel and functions and congregations, be careful of objects used including clothes, and be careful of food you consume, especially uncooked food.

You should listen to the health workers and follow advice and instructions only if you are convinced and disbelieve the comments and accusations of critics. Critics have a major role to play as this is a joint effort of all citizens to save themselves and the future generation without being a party to destroying the planet if we do not play the cards well and properly. The pandemic is invading us faster than expected and we must act faster to comply with the advice for us to be educated and to strictly follow guidelines to the last word. The TV footages show the citizen is still not taking matters seriously on the basics such as wearing masks and washing of the hands.

Other countries and jurisdictions

Let us now consider the situation in other countries and the precautions taken despite the uncontrolled fast spread. The irony is the spread of the dangerous pandemic in rich and developing countries that have modern facilities in abundance with top experts including the rich USA where the dying rate is high despite the availability of drugs and medicine in abundance.

The UK suffered heavily with unprecedented number of deaths and now somewhat controlled due to good careful behaviour of the citizen and rapid vaccination of the public in large numbers.

There was a period when UK citizens did not take serious concern until the situation got out of control and today the consolation is that the disease in the UK is under temporary control despite the fears of the next wave with variants and changes.

Movements of own citizens and visitors are problematic and of serious concern when the country has to maintain the normal life and law and order. Brazil is another country again badly affected and still suffering.

No country can say that they have controlled the pandemic well and many people allege that the international support is not satisfactory including the support of the United Nations, that is interested in other matters such as human rights related issues in most part of the globe rather than trying to contain the pandemic.

The UN has not drawn a plan of action or at least held a discussion on the gravity and the control of the situation. The UN must introduce programs on knowledge sharing and distribution of drugs and vaccinations jealously guarded by a few with most selfish attitudes not realising that it is a matter to die together or work together for the salvation of all in the globe.

The situation in India and many other countries is still escalating rapidly with higher death tolls of corona patients, and the hearing of sad stories such as those dying on the roadsides, shortage of oxygen and the errant blackmarket traders selling oxygen at exorbitant prices.

It is disturbing that Nepal, Bangladesh and neighbouring countries are as bad as India, full of patients in need of oxygen and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities as the death toll ticks on. An oxygen tank which normally sells at 3,000 Indian rupees is sold at 50,000 Indian rupees in the black market. Is it human?

Vaccinations, drugs and medical facilities

Different kinds of drugs and vaccinations have been discovered by many world powers who jealously store it for themselves leaving the poor to go through untold suffering. Publicity and press coverage is given to the powerful who too equally suffer despite the disparity of economic powers and facilities.

Needs do vary on various stages of the pandemic. The initial stage of education and prevention has been proved vital as success depends on the extent the basics are followed, such as keeping the distance, using face marks, cleaning surfaces and the body and clothes, which has not been followed in all jurisdictions to date amongst rich or poor or belonging to any geographical area.

The mode of exchange of knowledge and imparting of knowledge is not satisfactory as it is confined to few press conferences conducted by UN officials on the international media. The USA, UK, Russia and China have introduced different kinds of vaccines when major drug companies have been inactive in experimentation and propaganda schemes for some unknown reason. India is in such a bad state, they may not be able to supply us with the second consignment of vaccines. We may have to depend on our precautions and behaviour.

Deaths and worst scenarios

The death toll is escalating faster (today 3.1 million and increasing daily) at a terrific rate equalling in numbers to a world war in action. The world is stuck, unable to take the next step fearing everything, leaving life to unknown fates and religious activities such as praying and pleading to the unknown. Death has become a number.

The situation in India is most sorrowful. What do we do is the question as we helplessly watch the burning of dead bodies and listen to the stories of kith and kin dying in their hands.

There appears to be no solution on the horizon is an unanswered question in this most developed space age with digitalised modern devices in most parts of the world. In Sri Lanka the detection of over 1000 positive cases per day is increasing in an alarming rate. The PHI Association, GMOA and concerned active groups should be more responsible in making statements.

If the pandemic is not the priority, then what?

It is unfortunate but true that no individual, country can predict or state in certain the reason, cause or a solution to the pandemic and give a timeframe of ending the catastrophic situation facing the world and the citizen at large which is indeed unfortunate.

Are we to wait leaving the rest to the fate? Definitely not. There is a solution in this world for any problem facing mankind. Why has not the UN or developed countries called for a consortium of states and leading companies led by the super-rich now bolting from their birthplaces using their private jets.

Rich countries are not bothered as it is the poor who are suffering. They have drugs and money. Surely they have no hiding place in the world other than where they were born. Therefore, it is the duty of everybody to think individually and jointly as one in finding a solution before all of us perish together as one. Obviously it is not our option and we definitely must have a viable alternative.

For (towards) a Sri Lanka policy

Sri Lanka was doing well before and now is in a mixed dilemma leaving everything to the Army Commander who has been doing an excellent job all along. Apart from that, there appears to be no joint efforts of the highest echelons with centre of power apparently awaiting instructions from the top with no ideas or not contributing the expert knowledge with experience apart from speaking in the media via voice cuts that appear to be the process of education and strategy formations.

Sorry to state that Sri Lanka has no novel ideas, strategies or policies or are there any? What is the strategy of the government on preventing, controlling and getting rid of Covid- 19 with and without the international cooperation? We did not hear of any high-ranking discussions, workshops or webinars-apparently not a single webinar have been conducted so far except for some attempts taken by the Government Information Department with the help of young and energetic groups making some attempts to give guidelines to the government. Aluth Parliementuwa is very basic and full of repetitions. We hope our voice may not be misunderstood as the voice of a destructive citizen and anti-state propaganda. These are constructive writings.

Suggestions and propositions

The spread of the pandemic to Nepal with the same magnitude as in India is disturbing. The scientists on TV are not clear with conflicting opinions and it is time to get Dr Anil Jasinghe as a consultant without disturbing him in his current job and give more responsibilities. We are citizens in a sorry state, and saying things as laymen it may be useful to listen to us.

Sri Lanka appears to be on the doorsteps of danger and it is time to draw up a policy on the pandemic and policy plans on preventive and treatment methods. Situation in Sri Lanka is worsening day by day with the increase of patients and death toll with adverse news on new cases of Covid- 19 in various areas. There are potential dangers we in Sri Lanka have to be careful with the movement of fishermen, drug and illegal dealers on sea, and business community dealing with imports and exports taking place on a daily basis.

We should not blame the government but should try to assist within our capacities though we are not experts, but our suggestions and observations may be useful.

Clear message and priority

There is a clear message to all now. Forget about all current issues. The government must speak with one voice - best is to get State Minister Dr. Fernandopulle to lead the campaign assisted by Dr. Anil Jasinghe. Our priority is the pandemic danger that is getting closer and in order to avoid a situation that prevails in India precautions must be immediately taken.

May is Vesak month full of loving kindness and Sri Lankans are ready to help others starting from you and those closest to you. Before correcting others, correct and behave yourself for a peaceful month. Restrict or stop all movements and be indoors as far as possible. Eat homemade food and drink boiled water in bottles - not in plastic bottles.

Eat little and healthy, avoiding junk and fast food sold at food chains. Avoid drinking plastic bottled water. Make it a point to wash hands thoroughly and use the hand sanitiser at every point of exit and entry. Be cautious in touching external surfaces and if that happens, make sure you clean and wash at the available opportunity. Avoid personal contacts even with your close inmates. Follow strictly the instructions of the Health Department and the guidelines by them. It is not difficult if you practise and be aware of the dangerous situation in the outside world where Covid-19 is waiting to capture you.

Do not blame others- blame yourself and expect the worst. Imagine your past talking to your heart on your conduct whether you have been a good citizen protective or the environment and others. The media and many others warned of Hitler when many did not believe and you also do not believe danger will reach you until danger reaches your doorstep- It appears to be on the doorstep.

It has reached your country, your town, your friends, and the day may not be long when it reaches your doorstep, unless you take all precautionary measures, in proof of the adage that when you know and have the clear way, why travel aimless as mad? Act swiftly and carefully with an aim and determination that the priority is prevention and protecting from Covid-19 and nothing else until it is completely eradicated a wishful thinking and pray for health protection and loving kindness to all beings.

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Sarath Wijesinghe, President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and President, Ambassadors’ Forum