Saturday 21st August, 2021
The government has bowed to the inevitable after weeks of dillydallying. We are now facing another lockdown, which is a necessary evil. The rulers made mistakes, the public did not behave responsibly, and the Opposition as well as trade unions loyal to it held street demonstrations as if they had a death wish. So, we are where we are. The lockdown is sure to deal a crippling blow to the economy already on oxygen support. We deserve the lockdown–every bit ot it–and the adverse effects thereof.
We, as a nation, have failed to beat the virus because we have not got our priorities right. Our first priority should be presenting a united front against the elusive enemy and fight it with might and main, but we have not made a concerted effort to do so, and are playing our national game; the government is blaming its political rivals and the public for the current situation, and the people and the Opposition are flaying the powers that be for having made a botch of pandemic control. It is only natural that the virus is ripping through the country and snuffing out thousands of lives while we are busy fighting among ourselves.
It is feared that the death toll from Covid-19 will increase exponentially within the next few weeks unless the transmission of the Delta variant is brought under control urgently. One only hopes the lockdown will help improve the situation and save lives. The first lockdown worked because the morbidity and mortality rates were very low at the time. The second lockdown failed because it was not properly enforced. Everybody took it very lightly, and when the country was reopened the daily count of infections as well as deaths was still high.
The present lockdown, too, will come to naught in spite of the enormous socio-economic costs it is sure to cause unless the quarantine curfew is strictly enforced to ensure that nobody leaves home unnecessarily. Sri Lankans are a peculiar lot. They love to do things they are not supposed to do. Even those with walking difficulties tend to venture out during travel restrictions. During the previous lockdown there was no decrease in vehicular traffic, and the people moved about freely as if there had been no pandemic.
The huge economic loss due to the lockdown should be calculated and the people informed of it so that they will realise the gravity of the situation and the need to cooperate with the health authorities to control the pandemic and reopen the country fast.
It was unfortunate that the number of daily Covid-19 tests dropped during the previous lockdowns, and therefore the data available were not sufficient for the health authorities to get a clear picture of the pandemic spread. The need to ramp up testing during the current lockdown cannot be overemphasised.
A lockdown per se cannot help contain the pandemic; it must be strictly enforced and used to ease strain on the health sector, which is overwhelmed, curb the runaway spread of the pandemic, identify the infected, treat them, and vaccinate as many people as possible to achieve the herd immunity through inoculation.
Madness has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Therefore, the only way we could prove that we are not mad is to refrain from repeating the mistakes we made during the previous lockdowns, in trying to achieve the goal of ridding the country of the virus.
Meanwhile, it is being claimed in some quarters that the lockdown is a victory for those who campaigned for it. They should be congratulated on their success. Now that they have had the country closed, what will be their contribution to pandemic control and the provision of relief to the poor? Their help should be tangible. Mere words will not do. After all, they make a public display of their love for the country and declare that they are ready to lay down their precious lives for the sake of the people, don’t they? The time has come for them to match their words with deeds.