Reckless behaviour creates a new challenge | Sunday Observer

Reckless behaviour creates a new challenge

2 May, 2021

The country celebrated the Sinhala and Tamil New Year just over two weeks ago in style as the Government has not enforced any serious restrictions other than the requests made through media to toe the line with the already published guidelines.

Ironically, most of the public has almost forgotten the hardships encountered during the past year and had a free-for-all approach in their activities.

The ongoing economic crisis, both global and domestic, has brought tremendous suffering to people in many day-to-day matters.


The prevailing global economic issues are likely to continue due to the latest spike of the pandemic with an array of new variants found in several countries, particularly India recording over 300,000 cases and over 2000 deaths in a single day.

The situation in India is so pathetic that they are running short of oxygen, hospital beds, and intensive care facilities. Video footages reveal that patients are dying on the roads without getting treatments, sending an intense message to the other countries that are confronting the new Corona virus challenge.

At the time of writing this article, the constant predictions made by the health authorities before the New Year celebrations is becoming factual with a sharp increase in daily active cases.

Despite desperate calls by the medical professionals, the Police, and other relevant authorities, the public acted gross irresponsibility during the first two weeks of this month.

According to experts, human behaviour is the major factor for the continuous emergence of repeated Covid-19 waves.


When the strict lockdowns were in place during the first wave, people had no option other than to adhere to the guidelines. Those stringent moves by the Government were not only effective but also helped to curtail the pandemic successfully.

The protocols were tough and tiring but gave victorious results. Apart from the ‘quarantine curfew’ as declared by General Shavendra Silva, the Head of the Covid-19 Prevention Task Force, other gazetted compulsory etiquettes such as wearing face masks, washing hands, and keeping physical distance made Sri Lanka placed among the best countries in combating the pandemic.

Regrettably, when the cases started declining, the Government relaxed on imposing strict health regulations and the public naturally broke out of the shackles.

Gatherings gradually became larger and the penal actions that the public feared during the first and second waves gradually diminished. This behaviour was seen throughout the country allowing the deadlier new wave to resurface.


The protocol fatigue appears to have affected the health authorities and also the other relevant Government machinery that was in place for over six months in a gruelling and enduring experience.

The public health officers, medical officers, nursing and other hospital staff, the Police Department, and the military apparatus have gone through the situation with seemingly gritty determination and commitment.

Therefore, it is only a natural phenomenon that the fatigue appears in this tired group who rendered an extremely valuable service to the nation.

The urban mobility during the pre-Sinhala and Tamil New Year was seen as uncontrollable despite pleas by the authorities.

In this writer’s opinion, even the media involvement in warning the general public seemed lukewarm.

Although the conventional media has aired scattered speeches or requests by the Government, the actual and creative engagement they usually exhibit on other matters was absent.

Ironically, the social media that always go viral in even unimportant political and private issues seemed to have neglected the Covid-19 instructions and warnings.

However, less than a week after the New Year holidays, the media seemed to have reactivated the intense campaigns they have once carried out.

The usual relentless warnings, announcements by health and law enforcement authorities came into operation with the same intensity in a productive involvement.


The AstraZeneca vaccination program was a success although the opposition political parties criticised the effort by the Government.

Since the announcement of the discovery of the vaccine by Oxford University, the opposition parties blamed the Government citing various unsubstantiated claims. The opposition will find another lame reason soon to discredit the government, although most allegations are baseless.

Despite every positive step the Government so far has taken to control the pandemic, an alarming situation has arisen after the New Year holidays.

The vastly increased urban mobility and relaxed and insecure approach by the public is causing concerns.

The large number of people who travelled to all corners of the country during holidays may have taken the virus to remote areas. As the tracking of patients was relaxed, the identification of new cases can be tricky for the authorities.

The Government has taken several prompt steps at the request of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) on re-imposing strict controls until at least May 31, preventing further spread. The situation will be reviewed then to determine whether to continue or cease.

Also, they have requested to increase the number of random PCR testing to at least 15,000 per day in identified areas. The Health Ministry has pledged to increase the existing facilities for frontline medical and health workers at the earliest including Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds.

For reasons that cannot be understood, the organised and effective anti-pandemic moves the President has made during the two consecutive waves have been neglected for the past few months, particularly since February. The reason can be attributed to the sharp decline of cases reported daily.

It is clearly evident once again that In Sri Lanka, cordial requests are not effective enough to control the attitude of the general public.

The aggressive approach by the law enforcement during the second wave sans the total lock downs visibly was productive and the people followed the health regulations cautiously to avoid legal action.


The flexible and soft line adopted by the Police before the New Year holidays made people take advantage to travel around disregarding all preventive methods. Also, most of them resorted to having parties and other gatherings, New Year festivals, and other events without concerning the health situation.

As a strong and frontline stakeholder, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) warns that the health authorities must conduct immediate and enhanced surveillance to locate Covid-19 red zones. They also suggest zonal lock downs with immediate effect.

In their opinion, if the situation runs beyond control, it would drastically affect the health capacity as already taking place in India, Brazil, and several other countries where there are no alternatives.

The Ministry of Health has issued a new set of guidelines effective till May 31, almost similar to the instructions given on the previous occasion. This time around, however, they have divided the alert levels according to the severity of each situation.

Even amid continuous and stern warnings by the authorities, the public does not seem to be taking adequate interest as yet.

Even now, media video footage constantly reveals that people are still moving about without masks, the most basic requirement, and also not keeping a safe distance in public places. The law enforcement authorities also are making only requests, without imposing legal actions that are usually ignored at large.

Every citizen must understand the potentially disastrous consequences of a third wave with the newly identified virus variants that are displaying features of extremely speedy transmission. The gravity of the situation is crystal clear to the masses with the information going viral in other countries.

Therefore, even at this late stage, the Government must make bold decisions fearlessly to arrest the situation.

In this writer’s opinion, the blame will be harsher on the President and the Government if the situation deteriorates further as in India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being brutally rebuked for belated action.

By taking stringent penal action that are the best mode of communications for most Sri Lankans, the health authorities and the Police will be able to get the situation under control.