-More confusion than clarity
-MoH insists guidelines only advice not law
-Police admit to shortcomings at funeral
-PHI union up in arms
-GMOA warns of second wave
The newly introduced guidelines for the ‘new normal’ has drawn flak for having more grey areas than clarity, resulting in spreading more confusion among the public.
However, the Ministry of Health insisted that the guidelines are clearly spelt out and the relevant authorities have been duly educated.
In some instances it has been found that the guidelines have been openly disregarded, raising fears it could open the doors for a second wave of the coronavirus.
Last week the Ministry of Health issued updated guidelines for the public focused on the ‘new normal’ with the country gradually resuming day-to-day activities.
The updated guidelines included strict restrictions on social events, religious activities and tuition classes, among others.
In making the guidelines public, Director-General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe said that it was issued to focus mainly on public activities, as guidelines related to the workplace had already been issued.
Jasinghe said that activities not listed in the document can be clarified from the local Public Health Inspector.
However, the Public Health Inspectors’ Union said that the guidelines had been drafted without consulting Public Health Inspectors (PHI).
Public Health Inspectors’ Union President Upul Rohana further said the guidelines are not practical.
Rohana said that since the guidelines are not legal all they as PHIs can do is give advice and not enforce any of the guidelines.
He urged the authorities to issue a gazette notice to make the more practical guidelines part of local laws.
Deputy Director General of Public Health Dr. Paba Palihawadana told Daily Mirror that the guidelines are only a form of advice and not law.
However, she said that some advice may be made law in the future, including the need to ensure social distancing.
“Some of these things might be made into law, but not all,” she said.
Among the most notable disparities in the guidelines made public and the actual implementation is related to the sale of liquor and face masks.
However, Dr. Palihawadana insisted that there was no disparity in the guidelines and that everything was quite clear.
The updated guidelines note that the sale of alcohol and cigarettes is prohibited until further notice.
However, it was found last week that restaurants and hotels were serving alcohol at most places.
President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Sanath Ukwatte told Daily Mirror that hotels and restaurants approved by the Sri Lanka Tourism Board can serve alcohol.
“But some restaurants that are not SLTDA approved may be serving liquor as well. To serve liquor you need to have approval,” he said.
The Colombo Municipal Council had said last week that it will raid any restaurant which does not have the approval to serve liquor.
Ukwatte said that the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has issued a set of guidelines to the hotels and restaurants to follow.
This includes maintaining social distancing and other operational guidelines drafted in consultation with the health authorities.
Ukwatte said that while hotels are gradually resuming most operations in line with the guidelines issued among the operations they cannot resume, as of yet, are gymnasiums, spas and swimming pools.
Meanwhile, he said the SLTDA is expected to issue an updated set of guidelines over the next few days.
The other confusion was over the use of face masks. Social med was abuzz last week where some people said that they had been asked by the Police to wear face masks while inside their private vehicles, even when alone.
However, Dr. Palihawadana said that advice has not been issued for the public to wear face masks in their private vehicles.
“We encourage the public to wear masks. But within your private cars not at all. There is no need to. If you are in your car and with your own family there is no need to wear a mask,” she insisted.
Asked if the Police have been properly made aware of the health guidelines with regards to wearing masks and other advice related to the ‘new normal’ Senior Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Ajith Rohana responded in the affirmative.
However, he asserted that the public must wear masks when travelling in hired vehicles like cabs and three-wheel taxis.
As per Health Ministry issued guidelines, the face masks must be commercially available masks or home-made masks with 2-3 layers of non-allergenic woven material.
However, some people on the street have been seen wearing handkerchiefs around their mouth and nose or single layer cloth as opposed to medically approved face masks.
The Police also drew flak for failing to ensure the curfew in the Nuwara Eliya administrate district was properly enforced during the funeral of the late Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) leader Arumugam Thondaman over the weekend.
Large crowds gathered along the streets, despite the curfew, failing to ensure social distancing.
The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) had warned of a second wave of the coronavirus after the crowds violated the quarantine curfew and gathered in parts of Kotagala on Saturday to pay their respects to Thondaman.
The GMOA said that they have been alerted by their regional officers of the threat of large crowds gathering at the funeral could pose to the entire country.
DIG Ajith Rohana said that the matter had been discussed at the Police Headquarters and it was found that the area Police had failed in their duties.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) had filed a complaint with the National Election Commission on Saturday regarding the violation of multiple election campaigning rules and coronavirus precautions by Ceylon Workers' Congress party members during Thondaman’s funeral.
Meanwhile, there was also confusion on guidelines for salons and beauty parlors.
One beautician told Daily Mirror on the condition of anonymity that they had been advised by the local area PHI that the Health Ministry has allowed only five services.
However other beauticians have been told they can carry out more services.
As per the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, threading, waxing of the face, facials, clean-ups, face bleaching, beard trimming, eyelash extensions and make-up are considered high-risk procedures which could transmit the infection.
Guidelines for each sector were updated on Saturday on the Health Ministry website and can be accessed via http://www.health.gov.lk/moh_final/english/article_read_more.php?id=874 (Easwaran Rutnam)