Playing politics with Coronavirus - EDITORIAL

9 March 2020 12:22 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The spread of Coronavirus worldwide has now topped 100,000. In February 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the disease COVID-19 According to latest statistics over 100,000 persons worldwide have been infected by the disease and more than 3,300 have died according to Reuters. In China alone, 80,651 persons have been infected while 3,070 deaths have been reported   
The ‘Guardian’ reports it is only a matter of time that the new coronavirus outbreak will soon be identified as a global pandemic and points out there has been a surge in cases in Iran, South Korea and Italy, but alarm is growing in both Italy and Iran, where 107 people in each country have died. while he number of coronavirus cases in South Korea exceeded 6,000 this week.  
According to the Daily Mail of March 7, 2020, leaked documents have revealed that the US hospitals are preparing for 96 million coronavirus infections and nearly half a million deaths from the outbreak.  
The number of coronavirus cases in India has increased sharply from six to 31 this week. Authorities in the capital, New Delhi, on Thursday ordered the immediate closure of primary schools until March 31 to prevent local transmission, while the central government made universal screening mandatory for all international passengers arriving in India.  
In Palestine, the Ministry of Health closed all places of worship in the vicinity of a hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem after a suspected case of coronavirus in the Holy City.  
Iranian authorities are to begin manning checkpoints to limit travel among major cities after more than 3,500 cases were confirmed in the country, along with 107 deaths. Iranian authorities warned on Friday that they may use ‘force’ to limit travel among cities and announced the new coronavirus has killed 124 people amid 4,747 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic.  
The reality of the situation is that the world is today facing a huge challenge to combat the coronavirus. And our country - Sri Lanka - is not free of this challenge. When news of a possible pandemic first hit the headlines, Sri Lankans; one and all rushed to pharmacies to purchase surgical masks. Sadly there was a huge scarcity of masks in the market. The cost of a surgical mask, normally sold at Rs. 10/-, rose to between Rs. 300/- to Rs 400/- in some sub urban cities. Even today our country does not have sufficient surgical masks to meet the increasing demand. Instead of an increase in stocks, we heard authorities inform us that Sri Lanka was not facing an imminent danger, and that surgical masks were not adequate to combat an outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus!   
In Sri Lanka, we have had a single case of identified coronavirus. That patient was successfully treated at our Infectious Disease Hospital. She has since left our shores. On the day of her release our own Minister of Health was pictured embracing the patient before she left Sri Lanka.   
On Feb. 1, 2020, the Foreign Relations Ministry announced a special Sri Lankan Airlines charter flight (UL 1422) left Colombo to bring back the 33 Sri Lankan students who were stranded in Wuhan, in China after Sri Lanka received the go-ahead to evacuate the students from the locked-down city.  
Today there are over 5,805 Sri Lankan expatriate workers, more than 95% of whom are unskilled workers living and working in South Korea, where the Coronovirus is spreading rapidly and has recorded the highest number of deaths outside China. Why is it, that while a Sri Lankan flight was sent to evacuate a mere 33 students, caught up in China, no efforts are being made to evacuate the over 5,000 or more expatriate workers now caught up in South Korea?  
Could it be that this is due to the fact, that the over 5,000 expatriate Sri Lankan workers in Korea are ‘unskilled workers’ from poor families of this country and that is why no effort is being made to look after their interests? Or could it be that none of these workers is a son or daughter of particular Ministers of State?  
Why is it, we Sri Lankans are always pig-headed and seem to play politics even when faced with the wolf at the door so-to-say. Cannot we differentiate the wood from the trees? Recently, health authorities designated three areas IDH, Hendala Leprosy Hospital and the private campus in Batticaloa as quarantine centres for persons suspected of being infected with coronavirus.  
All of a sudden, men and women of the cloth took to the streets together with misguided civillians to protest the setting up of the Hendala quarantine centre....   

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