By yesterday (April 5) at least 1,202,609 persons worldwide had tested coronavirus or Covid-19 positive and 64,732 had died of the dreaded disease. But the good news is that 246,640 of this number had completely recovered.
In our own country, the Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe announced on March 10 the first Sri Lankan patient infected with the COVID-19 had been identified. The 52-year-old patient was a tour guide and he had recently provided services to an Italian tour group, a media release issued by the Presidential Secretariat said. By Sunday, April 5, the number of cases in the country had risen to 166, of whom five had died and 25 fully recovered.
Meanwhile, during this same period in the US, 290,606 persons were tested positive and 7,826 lives had been lost. In Spain, 124,736 tested positive with 11,744 fatalities, while in Italy 124,532 tested positive and 5,362 succumbed to the dreaded disease, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described as a global pandemic.
It appears that our government has handled the issue better than most countries in the developed world. In fact, a US-based website ‘healthreviewgloobal.com has held our country’s handling of the pandemic as an example to the rest of the world. It points out how a properly organized preventive care can bring about, what it refers to as astounding results in a pandemic situation.
Among the points the site highlights is the fact that Lanka has nine well-regulated high quality medical facilities covering different regions of the country, and all of these centres provide free medical treatment to its citizens and the fact that doctors and medical staff receive continuous training. Another advantage in the country is that even the private sector health care system is carefully regulated via the government.
Again, the moment the potential danger was first known government authorities created specialized teams to track the movements of inbound tourists who could pose a potential threat. Sri Lanka was also one of the first countries to send a rescue mission to China to bring back its citizens before the then epidemic worsened into a pandemic and immediately quarantined all returnees.
In contrast to some of the ‘more developed’ countries,’ as for instance in the US, the Lankan President followed the advice of his medical experts and allowed the system to function, despite a looming general election and the possibility of having to take unpopular measures which could deprive his party of votes. Quite unlike for instance, the US President who kept rejecting the advice of medical experts, for fear of hurting his vote base, as the US too is facing forthcoming presidential election.
So, today while the US has 1,202,609 confirmed cases of coronavirus, whereas Sri Lanka has less than 200. But it now appears that a few people seem set to sabotage the fight against Covid-19 pandemic in our country. Just yesterday, Government Nursing Officers’ Association President Saman Rathnapriya threatened that nurses would quit their duties from today (April 5) and the day after (April 6), if their demands regarding bonus payments and other perks are not immediately met. If the nursing faculty does go ahead with their threatened work stoppage at this stage – a time when the health of the entire country is in their hands - it is in reality holding the entire nation to ransom.
It also smells a crude attempt to politicise a national problem. Saman Rathnapriya was not too long ago an appointed Member of Parliament of a particular political party. Our hope is that this political party will condemn this narrow-minded attempt to cripple an essential service at a time of national emergency, and such a decision would also bring the entire nursing fraternity into disrepute.
In India, misguided members of the public physically assaulted nurses, doctors and medical staff who were checking the patients suffering from the virus. But they did not resort to strike action. Rather one of the affected doctors publicly stated that they would continue the essential service they had undertaken, despite the foolish actions of a few members of the public. Can our nurses and other sections of the medical fraternity act in an equally wise and humane manner.
People involved in the medical field are the most precious group in the present circumstances. If the nurses go on strike, the entire medical system is in danger of collapse and Sri Lanka could easily turn out to be another US.