Caution is the order | Sunday Observer

Caution is the order

25 July, 2021

This long weekend has already seen a huge movement of people, even if only within the Provinces.

It seems that the majority of people have thrown caution to the winds, forgetting all about Covid-19 and the health practices.

The Police have caught hundreds of people who had violated health guidelines, with offences ranging from not wearing face masks to not adhering to social distancing. To all those who seem to be under the illusion that Covid-19 is a spent force, think again. It is certainly not.

While we are indeed seeing a reduction of cases at the tail end of the Third Wave, the Sri Lanka Medical Association and many other health-related organisations have warned that we could be on the cusp of a Fourth Wave if we display a lackadaisical attitude towards Covid-19.

Indeed, Army Commander General Shavendra Silva, who heads the anti-Covid drive, has warned of the possible emergence of a “Wedding cluster” due to the irresponsible behaviour of those hosting and attending wedding ceremonies, which can now go ahead with 150 guests in attendance.

With Bacchus in full flow, most guests are reportedly doing away with all health precautions, endangering themselves and others.

The authorities should seriously review this situation and cap the attendance at a lower number if there is a real danger of the situation getting out of hand.

The same goes for protests and demonstrations, which have proliferated since most travel and other restrictions were lifted. True, the right of protest and assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution, but these are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures.

The organisers of these protests should know about the massive risk they are taking by assembling hundreds of people at one venue, sans social distancing. Such gatherings are a recipe for disaster.

It has also been reported that some mercantile establishments have resorted to getting all their workers back to office in a bid to catch up with lost time and work.

Again, this is fraught with danger as most workers have to use public transport and many offices still do not have necessary health safety measures. Where it is possible for the workers to Work From Home, (WFH) it should be allowed to continue and workers must also be offered flexible working hours.

In fact, some overseas companies have made WFH a permanent fixture that will continue even if the pandemic ends.

These precautions are necessary due to new developments with regard to the pandemic.

The more transmissible and contagious Delta variant of the original Coronavirus is sweeping across the world, causing more hospitalisations and fatalities. Several Delta patients were discovered in Sri Lanka as well. This is a huge cause for concern, since this variant can cause havoc on an unprecedented scale especially among unvaccinated people and even those who have had only one dose of any vaccine.

Even fully vaccinated people can get “breakthrough” infections from Delta, but the symptoms are likely to be mild.

Hence the acute need to vaccinate our entire eligible population as fast as possible. This should be possible at the rate that vaccines keep coming here. Those who are eagerly awaiting the second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine have good news, as more than one million doses of the Vaccine are to be donated by Japan soon.

While “Vaccine hesitancy” is almost non-existent in a country with an impressive immunisation record, some people seem to have fallen prey to anti-vax misinformation campaigns on social media.

Fear has been created in the Central Province about the Moderna vaccine via social media to the effect that it contains nanoparticles and microchips and that it can change your DNA. None of this is true. Vaccines do not have any of these properties.

True, vaccines could sometimes have serious side effects, but these are reported from say, 15 out of four million recipients.

Moderna is one of the best Covid vaccines around with a 94 percent efficacy rate, with a 100 percent track record against developing a serious form of Covid-19.

It would be a pity if any residents of the Central Province opt out of receiving the Moderna jab based on these dubious and completely incorrect claims. This “infodemic” of misinformation must be countered by the heath authorities through a sustained mainstream media campaign. There have also been reports that some mothers have missed out on the normal inoculations given to their children for the prevention of other diseases due to Covid vaccine fears.

It is vital that children get all their injections for childhood diseases on time, lest we have epidemics of other preventable diseases. In any case, health authorities are now exploring the possibility of giving the Covid jab to all children aged 12 and above. This should help in the process of re-opening the schools without delay.

Getting rid of Covid-19 is a civic responsibility as much as it is a Governmental one.

Sri Lanka is following a “Middle path” for Covid control, without freeing up entirely regardless of the consequences (like England) or resorting to extremely harsh lockdowns (like Australia).

But this cannot work without public cooperation. All of us have a role to play in mitigating the pandemic, from getting vaccinated without delay to doing the little things such as washing hands, wearing face masks, minimising journeys and keeping the distance from the next person.

We might have to live with the Covid virus for a few more years and these practices should have become second nature by now.

There should be a collective, determined fight against this contagion until victory is achieved.