Can we afford another COVID-19 outbreak? | Daily News

Can we afford another COVID-19 outbreak?

Last week, Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige stressed on the importance of obtaining whatever the next dose for COVID-19 as soon as possible by all eligible individuals and wearing masks in public by all in order to prevent the outbreak of another huge COVID-19 wave, similar to the one’s that hit the country in the last two years. He said that there is a possibility of new variants breaking out at any time and urged everybody to be vigilant and ready to face such a situation now. There is no point in trying to take remedial measures after the outbreak of another COVID-19 variant takes place, because it takes at least two weeks to develop immunity after obtaining any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But the pathetic situation here in Sri Lanka is that no one cares about this topic or at least the latest situation. No wonder because most Sri Lankans worry about their health only when they are about to die and are facing imminent danger. They do not care about the health of others at all. This is very evident to all of us especially during the entire period of COVID-19 from March 2020 up to now.

There are people who travel in public transport services such as buses and trains without wearing masks and no one cares about it. People are scared to question them. The people who do not wear masks think that they do not have any disease (just because they feel good) and infecting others is one of their rights. This is a very pathetic situation. In foreign countries people are educated and they respect the rights of others. But here in Sri Lanka it is just the opposite.

It is the same with many other places, especially in offices. Workers freely cough and sneeze without wearing masks in air conditioned environments with Department Heads or those in authority turning a blind eye to the situation, putting the lives of other employees at risk. Sometimes, the staffers who do not wear masks make hilarious excuses for not wearing masks. They say they can't breathe and cannot work when wearing masks after having worked wearing masks for almost two years!

Fortunately, last week the prices of cigarettes went up and now people will start to reduce smoking at least to a certain extent. It is a plus point when it comes to the spreading of COVID-19 because they will spread cigarette smoke less than before endangering the lives of others. They will be less susceptible to sicknesses less than before which will save public funds spent on their medical treatment.

Health guidelines

Even a person with an iota of intelligence can understand that the cold environment increases the COVID-19 risk. The Winter is approaching and the Sri Lankan climate also becomes colder during this time of the year than other months. Therefore, taking almost all precautions to prevent another huge COVID-19 outbreak is essential.

The health authorities and all the other relevant authorities should pay more attention towards this issue now than ever before. Now, we all can see that they are not that active as they were before and do not educate the public on a regular basis. They rarely stress the importance of wearing masks in public and following all the other basic health guidelines introduced in 2020.

The mass media also ignores the COVID-19 situation now and does not pay any attention at all except for a press conference or two held by epidemiologists and PHIs. A very little time is allocated to telecast/broadcast very short clips of those press conferences during news telecasts/broadcasts and in the newspapers. No importance is given at all for COVID-19 by the media and social media at present. But, the danger is still there and it is very high.

We all know the current economic situation that Sri Lanka faces and its impact on health services. All right thinking people can understand the current situation when it comes to testing and controlling COVID-19 during these difficult times when Sri Lanka is facing economic crisis. But it seems no health authority tells the truth to the public during media briefings and they are very scared to tell the truth to the public.

At the same time they tell the public to be careful, take all precautionary measures and do everything possible to prevent another huge COVID-19 outbreak. The public gets confused when they say two different contrasting things at the same time. They say the disease is under control now and no need to worry about it like we all worried in early 2020 and 2021. Then they say it is possible for a new variant to emerge at any moment and we should be prepared to face such a situation because our health service will not be able sustain such a devastating situation now.

Social responsibility

According to our general knowledge, this is what we understand as ordinary people with our average education. COVID-19 is still there. But the situation is not that bad as it was in early 2020 and 2021. But, still are some people dying from it. Vaccination is the best solution for it. Following all basic health guidelines such as wearing a mask in public, washing hands with soap often especially before touching areas above the chest, using a proper hand sanitizer whenever soap and water is not available is good to protect ourselves from COVID-19.

But there are a large number of people who still do not understand this simple truth. Some of them are well educated. Some of them had suffered from COVID-19 and recovered without any problem. Their only problem is being extremely selfish. They think only about their well-being and totally ignore their social responsibility. They are the people who do not wear masks in public, sneeze in public without covering their nose and mouth, wear masks bellow their nose etc. Unfortunately, the ordinary people, especially the vulnerable, cannot do anything against them. Law enforcement officers do nothing because there is no order from the top/health authorities for them.

No matter what the health authorities say, the old and the infirm, the people who have been suffering from various chronic diseases for decades, the people who take immunity lowering drugs for other diseases, the people who underwent major surgeries in the recent past etc are vulnerable and in great danger. Therefore, there is a danger of them dying from COVID-19 even after obtaining all four doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This is the bitter truth we have been experiencing since March 2020 up to now.

Why on earth aren’t the health authorities and all relevant authorities failing to tell the people that they have to take care of themselves as a social responsibility and that they have no right to infect others who may be in danger due to various special reasons as described above.

Those health authorities do only one positive thing. That is stressing the importance of obtaining vaccines all the time. According to them, all eligible people should get all the required doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The people can obtain whatever dose after whatever time period. The recommended time period is a dose after three months from the previous dose. But according to the health authorities, now the people can obtain whatever dose as soon as possible from the nearest state hospitals and MOH offices.

It is all right if the health authorities and other relevant authorities cannot make it compulsory for the people to wear masks all the time and follow all basic health guidelines. They should make it compulsory for passengers using public transport to wear masks at all times because no matter how many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine we may obtain, there is the danger of a huge COVID-19 wave if a new variant were to enter the country.

This is because people using public transport were compelled to travel like animals hanging to each other touching face to face due to the recent fuel crisis. Only the rich people who have their own transport and official transport will survive if another COVID-19 wave were to hit Sri Lanka. After so-called ‘Aragalaya’ now people have become brave enough to challenge those who still follow all health guidelines all the time and make fun out of people who protect themselves and others from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Some people think that wearing a mask in public transport is humiliating to others. No wonder, Sri Lankans always see right as wrong and wrong as right!.

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