The endless menace of the Covid-19 crisis | Sunday Observer

The endless menace of the Covid-19 crisis

29 August, 2021

The world has passed the year-and a-half mark of the collective experience with the Covid-19 pandemic triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The pandemic has led to an extraordinary loss of human life worldwide and created an unparalleled challenge to day-to-day public life. The pandemic delivered an immense blow on the world economy on the other. The economic and social disruption was devastating shoving some countries into extreme poverty.

Due to the intensity of the spreading of the virus, millions of business enterprises worldwide face an existential threat even now. Over three billion workers around the world are at risk of losing their livelihoods. In Sri Lanka, out of the country’s private sector workforce of over eight million, approximately three million self-employed segment is already in deep trouble with the ongoing gruesome crisis.

The most important query of everyone is universal. When will the pandemic be over and society returns to normalcy? The opinion of experts and scholars is divided. Whilst some of them predict that this virus will not permanently be eradicated, the more optimistic of them believe that the pandemics historically end sooner or later as were previous global pandemic breakouts.

According to medical experts, many factors will determine how soon the pandemic can end. At present, the first and foremost is how fast the vaccine be administered globally. Secondly, the Covid-vappropriate behaviour practiced by the public and the ending of the evolution of more variants of the virus.

The medical fraternity throughout the world currently believes that vaccinations will play the most important role in the timeline. Their opinion is that even if the virus may never be eradicated fully, if the people are given protection against major strains, the damage will be much less.

Removing the mask

However, the biggest hindrance is the distribution of the vaccine throughout the world. Whilst more powerful countries have already overbooked the vaccine, over 50 countries have so far administered vaccines to less than 5% of their populations.

Confirming the magnitude of unpredictability, the virus has established a new fourth wave in the USA, the country that has fully vaccinated 50% of its total population. Driven by the Delta variant, the new wave started in early July, more than doubling the number of cases. This was at a time when the United States Government has even relaxed the rule of wearing masks.

Unfortunately neither scientists nor medical experts can offer a foolproof guarantee when the pandemic be over. the experience in countries such as the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and many more have experienced multiple waves during the past year and a half. When they presume that the situation is under control and opens their respective countries, a new variant takes over catching them off guard and creating more havoc.

Similarly, in Sri Lanka, the challenge of the first wave was taken by the Government head-on and produced amazing results by being one of the best countries in the world to curtail it. Only a few deaths, a few hundred cases, and a death rate of 0.20% were recorded. The country was reopened after near two-month lock down.

April and next waves

Abruptly, the second wave appeared from nowhere generating much worse damage than the first. The country slowly was returning to near normalcy when the third wave surfaced in April 2021. However, the Delta variant that appeared in August this year has done most of the damage so far by way of both infections and fatalities.

The new and continuously evolving new variants around the globe perhaps have sent shivers down the spine of the medical fraternities and researchers of Sri Lanka and around the world. Even with vigorous vaccination drives, the virus has moved forward in a different form of a variant. Similar situations occurred even in some of the European countries.

As the whole world including the World Health Organization in unison declares that the best preventive method currently is the vaccination to control the ongoing spike. The vaccination undoubtedly helps prevent hospitalisations and deaths even with the rise of current daily cases.

In Sri Lanka, finally, the Government imposed a total lockvdown after many discussions with medical experts, health workers, clergy, and other related groups. It was a bold and brave decision considering the plight of millions of self-employed people in the country. However, the Government, with adequate leeway to essential services, agriculture, and apparel trade has decided on a total closure to prevent further spread.

In this writer’s opinion, in Sri Lanka, there are two segments of people who suggest lock down. The first is the citizens, social organisations, medical experts, and clergy who are genuinely interested in the well-being of the country. The Government seems to have accepted their views positively by imposing the lockdown.

The second group, however, seemingly making louder noise, is opposition political parties with hidden agendas. For example, less than a month ago, with clear evidence in the country and clearer instructions from many medical experts, the opposition parties collectively gathered thousands of people for protests.

Politics in lockdowns

The second example is that immediately after the announcement of lock down, the same people who vehemently demanded an immediate lock down have called press briefings to criticise the move citing various unsubstantial claims. This action is clearly defining their opportunistic political agendas. They intend to create chaos in the country by instigating the general public.

The ongoing vaccination drive in Sri Lanka is highly commendable. The relevant health workers with the assistance of the Tri-Forces continue to offer an extremely efficient vaccination service throughout the country. The usual daily doses given are most often over 300,000, a creditable number for the country.

President Gotabaya Rajapaka has instructed authorities to continue the vaccination drive during the prevailing locked down period more vigorously. The intention is to complete the vaccination of the entire over 60-year-old population before the 31st of August. The Government’s ultimate aim is to complete the vaccination drive by 10th of September.

The evidence of incidents hospitalised patients, mortuaries, and cemeteries keep appearing in the mainstream and social media. The result is that, unlike the last several occasions, the Government did not have to enforce the law to control people as most of the countrymen have realised the enormity of the situation for themselves and the country. Regrettably, as pointed out by many neutral people, the Government media machinery has still not effective enough to counter negative claims at the most appropriate times. Their counter explanations always are late and often not effective. The presidential media unit and other relevant Government media units must find ways to counter negative publicity that is damaging to society at this crucial moment.

President Rajapaksa finally addressed the nation, this time with a short speech of just around 17 minutes. The speech has rendered an immediate positive response from the masses. Although the speech was brief, he was able to able to deliver a very powerful message, why he was reluctant to decide on a complete lock down, citing the plight of the lives of millions of citizens with informal earnings and the impact on the economy of the country.

With or without lock downs or even vaccinations, the pandemic is not remotely over as yet in Sri Lanka or the world. The behaviour of the virus is so unpredictable, temporary measures such as lockdowns have not proven adequate to control the spread.

What the next few weeks bring is still uncertain with the speed the virus is spreading in Sri Lanka. However, the optimistic view is that the hospitalisation and death rate will go down when the effects of the full vaccination take place in the next several weeks.

The prediction is that instead of raging through the entire country, the virus will target the unvaccinated, immune-compromised population, and elderly people with chronic illnesses.

If the entire citizenry fail to get together and act now, it will be the same situation the country is at present in another year with closures, disruptions, infections, deaths, and more dreadful social life.