Success against Covid-19 needs to be preserved | Sunday Observer

Success against Covid-19 needs to be preserved

17 October, 2021

The covid-19 pandemic is not the first calamity Sri Lanka confronted since its independence in 1948. The country was sent through several gruesome experiences during this period. The youth unrest in 1971 and 1988/90, thirty-year battle against terrorism, tsunami tragedy, and the Easter Sunday bomb attack were some of the most notable incidents. Each of these incidents caused an enormous amount of damage to property and lives in the country.

Facing obstacles

However, every time, the country was able to conquer the challenges and get along victoriously through the commitment and collective efforts of the society. During each of these disasters, the citizenry stood united despite even the customary negative political influences. The pertinent question is whether we were able to sustain the unity displayed during stressful times adequately in other national issues?

Opportunistic petty party politics always played a pivotal role in disrupting the positive mindset of the citizenry when the disaster subsided. For the past few decades, the opposition, whichever political party they belong to, always found slogans to criticize the Government in power.

The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President of the country in 2019 gave new hope to the country. The vast majority of the voters were unhesitant in giving him power with an immense amount of trust. Most of the voters, even those who voted against, wished to see President Rajapaksa as a Statesman rather than a traditional politician. The voters had faith in him because of his impeccable track record as an efficient and skilled administrator from 2009 to 2015.

President Rajapaksa assumed duties as the head of state in 2019 with perhaps the best development plan for the country since its independence. His election manifesto, ‘Vistas of Prosperity’ was accepted by the majority of Sri Lankans as a pragmatic and timely action program.

Plans disrupted

The Presidential plan was harshly disrupted in January 2020 with the emergence of the first recorded Covid-19 patient in Sri Lanka. The threat was dealt with successfully with efficient crisis management by the Government with the assistance of the health fraternity, Tri-forces, and the public. The first wave was successfully compressed due to the unyielding commitment of all the stakeholders.

However, the second wave that has resurfaced in July/August 2020 was more damaging than the first and once again the health authorities managed to control the situation admirably in a few months and by January 2021 the country was heading for a full recovery. However, the third wave struck in April 2021 delivered an unbearable sucker punch, creating the most ghastly havoc with thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths a day.

The overall situation as of today is much improved with only a few hundred new cases a day. The death rate also has dropped drastically. The last lock down was lifted on October 1 and society is getting back to day-to-day activities under strict health instructions. This time around, the public is visibly more concerned about the health guidelines than last few occasions. Wearing face masks and maintaining distance in public places that have become mandatory is being followed more effectively by the public.

The ambitious vaccination drive launched spearheaded by President Rajapaksa was one of the key victories of the country. The program not only was successful but also acclaimed by the entire world including the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccination campaign is exceedingly successful by every standard compared to any country in the world.

Successful vaccinating

According to medical experts, the decrease of the new cases and deaths is due to the exceptionally successful and efficiently executed vaccination drive. The Health Ministry states, as of last week, over twelve million persons were vaccinated covering almost 56.6% of the total population of the country. This equals the United States, the most powerful and one of the richest countries in the world that has vaccinated 57% of the population as of now. The total vaccinated at least with one dose has passed twenty-six million according to Health Ministry sources.

The irony is that instead of supporting the national effort, the opposition led by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has habitually criticised the vaccination program from its inception. They not only spread disinformation through various press briefings and social media platforms but also have attempted to disrupt the effort at various times by instigating the general public by utilising misinformation. Nevertheless, the vaccination success has presented a direct positive impact on reducing new cases and deaths in the country.

Despite the effects of the pandemic, the economic activities forged ahead amidst stressful restrictions and constraints. The World Bank, in its Global Economic Prospects report, said that Sri Lanka is expected to grow 3.3% in 2021 recovering rapidly from the Corona virus pandemic.

The economy shrunk to minus 3.6% in 2020. Hence, the recovery is welcome news for the country. However, The World Bank, in the same report, stated that the high debt burden, large gross financing needs, and weak external buffers may cast shadows on the outlook.

Despite relentless criticisms and disruptions by Trade Unions, the Government is creditably managing the day-to-day issues of the public on one hand whilst attempting to boost up the country’s economy on the other. The effort is recognised and hailed by the majority of the public.

Highest contribution

The private sector in Sri Lanka that makes the highest contribution to the economy has recognised the efforts of the government. Even amid the prevailing cash crunch, the Government has offered many concessions to the private sector.

Although many obstacles exist, the Government attempts to provide maximum financial assistance to businesses. The authorities realise that the continuation of the business activities is perhaps the most important economic factor.

The export earnings show steady growth in 2021, slowly recovering after the sharp drop in the last year. Almost all export sectors recorded considerable growth this year despite financial restrictions, lock downs, and strict health guidelines. Apparel exports seem rapidly coming back to normal whilst traditional exports such as tea, rubber, spices, and minor export crops are also display an upward trend during the past few months.

With the global price hikes on almost all imported essentials, the Government has left itself between the devil and the deep blue sea. They undoubtedly earn public wrath if they increase the prices of essentials such as fuel, gas, milk powder, raw material, and all other requirements needed by the public.

On the contrary, the importers are justifiable in asking for price hikes as they are forced to pay higher rates for foreign exchange and pay extra for increased world prices. Therefore, in the upcoming budget proposals, the Government is expected to come up with a reasonable solution to these pressing issues.

The Covid-19 threat is far from over as yet. The vaccination also is not a permanent solution for the pandemic according to experts. Therefore, the public must be vigilant and keep on reminding themselves about the importance of adhering to health instructions. With the reopening of schools that was long overdue, the entire citizenry must consciously be on the alert to avoid any further spread.

The nation must make headway by getting used to the new normal situation, perhaps for the next few years. The Government was compelled to spend many billions of funds due to the Covid-19 as medical supplies, vaccinations, health facilities, and public welfare during lock downs. The funds meant for development and public utilisation were spent on the unprecedented health crisis.

Therefore, it is a time that the Government requires undivided public support. Every one of the citizens has a responsibility to support the Government efforts despite whatever political ideology they believe and follow.

The Opposition always publicly declares that they will back any public-friendly proposal of the Government. However, thus far those are empty political statements that the general public is yet to see the authenticity of such statements. Therefore, it also is time to dispose of petty political differences and collectively work towards a better future.