Considering the rapidly increasing number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the rising death toll makes us wonder whether the government is losing its grip on the virus. No doubt the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID -19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) headed by Lieut. Gen. Shavendra Silva is doing a good job—but should not the government enlist the assistance of the health authorities in the public and private sectors to spearhead the fight against this deadly virus?
Whenever new cases are detected in the Western Province or elsewhere we are told they are either from the Minuwangoda cluster or the Peliyagoda cluster and now the prisons cluster. As of Tuesday 2,239 inmates and 91 Prisons Department employees had contracted the virus while four inmates had died of the disease. But at the end of the day does it matter, which cluster the patients belong to, but the stark reality that more have been infected, more have died, and a reminder to the authorities and the people that more needs to be done to stem the spread of the virus? Is the cluster mentality an attempt to avoid admitting the fact that the infections have moved to community transmission? Living in a state of denial or sacking officials who speak out will not help the government tackle this worsening health crisis. Could the slow progress even point to an attitude of marking time now that a vaccine is on the horizon with reports that it might come Sri Lanka’s way early next year?
Incidentally, the first consignment of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Britain and distributed to hospital vaccination centres there, with England’s deputy chief medical officer saying the first wave of vaccinations could prevent up to 99% of COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths.
A 90-year-old woman became the first to be given a COVID jab as part of the mass vaccination programme being rolled out across Britain. Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was the “best early birthday present”.
Meanwhile, comes a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) warning governments and citizens not to drop their guard over the COVID pandemic now that a vaccine is close, saying healthcare systems could still buckle under pressure.
“Progress on vaccines gives us a lift and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva news conference.
He said the pandemic still had a long way to run, and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course and as to when the pandemic would ultimately end. The WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan also cautioned against complacency in the wake of the vaccine roll-out, saying though they were a major part of the battle against COVID-19, vaccines would not on their own end the pandemic.
With that said, we take time off to congratulate Sri Lankan born Vanushi Sitanjali Walters nee Rajanayagam, the first Sri Lankan-born New Zealand lawyer on her election as a member of the NZ Parliament from the Upper Harbour electorate.Her well-received reply speech, which she prefaced with a few lilting words in Maori, began with the traditional Sri Lankan greeting, Ayubowan and Vanakkam.
“There is a moment just as you wake. It doesn’t happen every morning, but on those mornings when something significant has changed in your life, there’s an inch of time after waking, when you take a breath before the cloak of your new identity washes back. It was there the morning after election, with warp speed like force, and left me awash with gratitude for the trust placed in me as the first Labour Party member to hold the Upper Harbour seat,” she said.
Ms. Walters said she has been an advocate for human rights for 27 years, but that there was still so much to be done for human rights protection in many countries around the world, because human rights belong to all.
“We have an obligation to continue to address racism and discrimination. Where voices aren’t represented at decision-making tables, we have an obligation to shake the tables. We must not only hear the loud and organized but fiercely listen for piercing silences and work to bring the marginalized and disempowered from the periphery to the centre,” she said. As fellow Sri Lankans we are proud of her, and wish her well.