We focus today on the twice-postponed general election, which is just round the corner, at touching distance as it were amid the fear, confusion and uncertainty of not knowing who will next fall prey to the relentless onslaught by the coronavirus. In such a scenario, it is left to be seen how many of the eligible voters will overcome their fear and cast their vote on August 5 with many who had decided to exercise their franchise seemingly having second thoughts about doing so after the outbreak of the latest cluster of COVID-19-infected patients detected at the Kandakuda and the Senapura Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres at Welikanda in the Polonnaruwa District.
The news in the print and electronic media are confusing and not making it any easier for people to gauge the actual ground situation in the battle to eradicate the virus. While the government spokespersons – the Health Minister, the Director General of Health Services and the Army Commander say there is no need to panic and the situation is under control; the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) criticised the government for relaxing health and travel restrictions at public gatherings, in public transport and recreational activities, thus increasing the country’s vulnerability to a resurgence of COVID-19. It said the country was shifting back to the behaviour of the pre-COVID-19 period as key measures were not adequately applied and monitored by the government.
“It is tremendously disheartening to see what was achieved by a massive campaign to take the country to a new-normal situation being reversed. Unfortunately, it seems to be complicated by some regressive steps, which could drag the entire country towards the catastrophic situation akin to that faced by many other nations the world over,” the SLMA said in a statement signed by its President Prof. Indika Karunathilake, Vice President Prof. Manuj Weerasinghe and Convener Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama. “Even proper wearing of masks in public places is not strictly adhered to. The disappearance of that healthy behaviour seems to be largely because the early relaxation of control measures giving people the impression that the COVID-19 risk is no more. This false notion is extremely harmful and it will be hard to revert to healthy behaviour in case of any resurgence.”
This statement came amid Senior Medical Specialists warning that if the current spread of COVID-19 is ignored Sri Lankan could end up becoming another Brazil or India. Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President and Senior Consultant, Surgeon Dr. L.A. Ranasinghe has told Daily Mirror the Association suspects there is an imminent or established community transmission of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. He said the situation appeared to be pretty serious when considering the way that cases were being reported from July 14.
Dr. Ranasinghe said as a step towards curbing the present spread of the pandemic all public gatherings including political rallies and tuition classes be banned. However, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) says it is too early to predict whether a community spread of COVID-19 has begun because for such transmission to be established, there need to be reports of unrelated clusters.
With that said, we wonder whether the people realise the importance of casting their vote at the upcoming general election and of the option to make a change. To those who do not, the outcome would be a case of being carried away by the current taking what is being dished out. But to those who consider it as an opportunity to make a change, it is vital to use their vote wisely by electing young educated people of good character who value, morals and honesty. It is no secret that our choices are limited so let us make the best use of the few we have. We read a news item recently of an SLPP candidate in Polonnaruwa chasing away election officials, who were inquiring into a complaint that some public servants were being used for election propaganda work. This is the kind of arrogance and snobbery we would have to put up with if the wrong people are elected to Parliament. So refrain from voting to those who desecrated Parliament or known to have indulged in bribery and corruption, deforestation, illicit sand mining and drug trafficking or misappropriated State resources and instead vote for those who consider it a duty to serve the country and the people and not themselves.
One thing’s for sure; if we keep doing what we`re doing, we`re going to keep getting what we`re getting and a definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect different results -- Stephen Covey