A shot at life with vaccine rollouts | Sunday Observer

A shot at life with vaccine rollouts

18 July, 2021

Governments around the world are torn between Covid-19 containment and rescuing economies. Vaccination, however, is giving some hope to return countries to normalcy although policies on easing restrictions vary.

At a time when vaccination rollout is being expedited around the world, concerns arise on new virus variants giving rise to new fears on the protection levels.

However, medical professionals have indicated that vaccination seems to be the strongest weapon available and governments have taken this into account and are vaccinating their populations to ease Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to boost their economies.


Britain has an interesting case of being the first to declare Covid-19 as no longer a pandemic but an endemic where the virus is said to be circulating at a low and largely controllable level.

Britain experienced some major lockdowns before the vaccine rollout with nearly 130,000 deaths and over five million cases, according to the Worldometer. However, Britain’s reliance on vaccination has paved way for the pandemic to become an endemic.

A pandemic is the term used to describe an epidemic when the spread is global while an endemic describes a disease that is present permanently in a region or population. In other words, society accepts the situation and adapts to it while taking necessary precautions.

Britain is no longer in a strict lockdown state but restrictions have eased and people are allowed to slowly return to the lives they had before.

The best example for this was the recently concluded Euro 2021 where the final between England and Italy saw the pouring in of fans in to the Wembley Stadium.

The government said that the link between virus deaths and cases has been severed where the need is no more for masks and social distancing. However, this move is not without criticism.

The British Prime Minister’s gamble with Covid-19 earned the disapproval of medical professionals and scientists stating that this could result in mass infections.

Freedom Day

Despite the warnings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that England will move to the final stage of easing Covid restrictions on July 19 - dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ - which is the removal of almost all legal restrictions on social distancing.

However, the Prime Minister reiterated that it would be a cautious approach where some guidance would remain.

Britain’s vaccination rate is 65 percent of adults who have had two doses of the vaccine. However, vaccines are yet to be administered to those under 18 who are still left exposed which is causing concern and unease.

On the other hand, with the opening up, Britain looks for an economic boost and experts point out that football games adds to the consumer confidence.

UK’s economic growth slowed to 0.8 percent in May and later gained in April when restaurants and stores began to reopen. However, experts from several quarters rang alarm bells over the human cost of reopening.

Contrary to UK, Australia has a completely different approach to the Covid-19 response.

According to the Worldometer, Australia has over 31,000 cases and over 900 deaths so far. Australia’s Covid cases are not nearly as high as UK but borders still remain closed with strict restrictions despite the economic toll.

Australia’s economy heavily depends on migration as well as in the education sector whereby students especially from the region seek its high quality education.

The Sri Lankan community in Australia has especially contributed throughout the years to boost the Australian economy. Over 150,880 people in Australia are identified to be of Sri Lankan ancestry, according to 2016 statistics of the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Social Services.

A majority of them are estimated to be Sinhalese with 105,000 while an estimated 45,000 are Tamils. People who identify with a Sri Lankan ancestry mainly reside in Victoria with 75,595, according to the 2016 census. Statistics also show that New South Wales had 40,100 people with a Sri Lankan ancestry, Queensland 13,515, Western Australia 11,171, South Australia 5,036 and Australian Capital Territory 3,924 in 2016. According to the Department of Home Affairs in Australia, over 14,000 students from Sri Lanka are studying in Australia as of April 22, 2020.

Among the Sri Lankan migrants, many have successfully integrated into society. A long list of eminent Australians of Sri Lankan origin have distinguished themselves as State Governors, chefs, literary award winners as well as global leaders of the legal fraternity such as the late Judge C. G. Weeramantry. Sri Lankans have even made a mark in Australian politics. As such, Australia depends heavily on migration to boost their economy with the overseas student populations seeking better education there.

Lowest levels

New statistics show that migration to Australia last year recorded the lowest level in 100 years. This is a heavy blow as Australia is built on immigration with 30 percent of the population born overseas. In 2020, only 3,300 migrants moved to Australia contrasting starkly with the 244,000 arrivals in 2019. As a result, many businesses are struggling to keep afloat being unable to recruit skilled workers.

According to Voice of America, 60 percent of the population growth was due to migrants prior to the pandemic. However, in 2020 the percentage has dropped to two. The pandemic has also impacted internal migration and experts predict that it could take as much as a decade for its immigration intake to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Voice of America.

On the other hand, shutting Australian borders is a popular choice making the country a success story for Covid response. This early move has led to better management and tracking of cases without letting the system overflow. This policy dubbed ‘Fortress Australia,’ however, draws criticism considering the impact it has on the economy. Australia recently said that it would remain closed until mid-2022.

The strict measures would mean more impact on the economy with the loss of migrants and a blow to Sri Lankan students who seek an Australian education as well as those applying to migrate.

Vaccination rollout

As the UK and Australia governments remain at two extremes, it is necessary that Sri Lanka should also consider these aspects in drawing up policies on fighting Covid and reviving the economy. As vaccination gains momentum, Sri Lanka too can consider easing restrictions to uplift its economy.

According to the Presidential Secretariat, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already put in place a comprehensive mechanism to vaccinate a majority of the population against Covid-19 before September.

Vaccines received in July would be made available to the public starting with high risk districts. The Colombo District is to get the majority 200,000 doses of the two million Sinopharm vaccines. The government aims to complete the vaccination of all persons over the age of 30 in the Western Province before July 30. In other parts of the country, 100,000 vaccines will be allocated to priority districts across the country.

For those who received the first doses and awaiting the AstraZeneca vaccine, the government has said that 147 million doses will arrive in a few weeks where the balance will be administered to people in Kegalle. Other vaccines arriving in the country in the future will be administered in a scientific manner.

With the vaccine rollout, the President has instructed relevant parties to provide more space for the resumption of economic activities, in order for the much-needed economic revival of the country.

As Sri Lanka awaits the country to get back to ‘normal,’ it is equally important to keep in mind that the ‘new normal’ is never the ‘old normal’ and the public needs to exercise vigilance and patience as the fight against Covid is a continuous endeavour.