Amid the government’s ongoing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 - one being the spraying of disinfectant in the belief it would kill the unseen virus - comes the recent situation report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) that spraying disinfectant on roads, buildings, vehicles and on individuals is only a waste of time, ineffective and even harmful.
It said that spraying disinfectant on the streets, as practised in some countries would not eliminate the new coronavirus and could even pose a health risk.
“Spraying or fumigating of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is not recommended to kill the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris,” the WHO says. “Even in the absence of organic matter, chemical spraying is unlikely to adequately cover all surfaces for the duration of the required contact time needed to inactivate pathogens.”
The WHO said streets and pavements are not considered as “reservoirs of infection” of COVID-19, and stressed that spraying individuals with disinfectants is “not recommended under any circumstances”. “This could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact,” the WHO said, adding that spraying chlorine or other toxic chemicals on people can cause eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm and gastrointestinal effects and warned against the systematic spraying and fumigating of disinfectants on to surfaces in indoor spaces, citing a study that has shown it to be ineffective outside the direct spraying areas.
The WHO says SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of the pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide since its appearance in late December in China, can attach itself to surfaces and objects, though however, no precise information is currently available for the period during which the viruses remain infectious on the various surfaces. It said studies have shown the virus can stay on several types of surfaces for several days. However, these maximum durations are only theoretical because they are recorded under laboratory conditions and should be “interpreted with caution” in the real-world environment.
Against this background its best that Sri Lanka re-thinks the spraying of disinfectants as one of the measures adopted to fight this unseen enemy, while according to a report published in Monday’s Daily Mirror, security personnel and health workers are often seen disinfecting public places while decontamination chambers are being installed at some workplaces, to disinfect the staff before entering the premises. Those returning from foreign countries and those leaving quarantine centres are also being sprayed with disinfectants, even though medical professionals have warned against these methods, especially as they pose serious health risks and could undermine the overall fight against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the seven Fundamental Rights petitions - taken up for hearing by a Supreme Court bench of five-judges comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya as Chairman and Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Malalgoda - most probably will continue over the next few days as well.
The petitioners are Charitha Maithri Gunaratne, senior journalist Victor Ivan and seven others: Dr. Pakiyasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ranjith Madduma Bandara on behalf of the Sajith Premadasa-led Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Patali Champika Ranawaka of the JHU and Kumara Welgama of the NLFP, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Shreen Saroor and Illangovan.
The petitioners are challenging the presidential proclamation dissolving Parliament on March 2, with the general election fixed for April 25 and the new Parliament to meet on May 14. They say the proclamation has been made null and void on the basis that none of the conditions as stipulated in the Constitution when Parliament is dissolved prematurely could be met - as in this instance - six months prior to the end of its term of office. Now that all the dates mentioned have come and gone, the petitioners seek a Supreme Court order quashing the presidential proclamation and a Court order to re-convene Parliament given the fact that constitutionally the country could not function sans Parliament or the Legislature, which is one of the pillars of a representative democracy.
That said, let us stifle our desire to indulge in any form of speculation on what the Supreme Court ruling might be or might not be, but rather await its final determination on the FR petitions after considering the submissions and counter submissions made by the concerned parties. In the final count may democracy and its constituents, the people, emerge victorious.