The vistas that lie ahead for Sri Lanka are very bleak
For some reason, we thought that we were immune from the Coronavirus. We thought there was something that protects us. We bragged and boasted, pooh-poohing the dire warnings issued by medical professionals and international bodies dealing with the brunt of the Covid 19 outbreak.
Did not we even sneer when the so-called powerful countries like the US, UK and Italy struggled with unbelievable death rates and strained health support systems? We did. We made parodies of songs on the Facebook, created memes that at that time seemed witty and funny. We thought India would be one wasteland after a few months of Covid. But not we! Oh no. We are not the same as the rest, are we? We have millions of Gods to look after us, three hundred and thirty million to be exact. Then we thought we had an unbreakable health care system and staff that could withstand any pressure that a pandemic outbreak could pose. We thought the Army (Oh, my goodness), yes , the Army, which has won a thirty year old war, which many pundits, most from the loathed West again, had declared unwinnable.
The President was one heck of a jovial face when he boasted about his war-time heroics, just brushed aside, mockingly any suggestion of a lockdown, at the onset of the first wave of the outbreak in March last year.
To be frank, I personally believe, the war victory has given us a false sense of hope that we could overcome anything with the support of the Army and the armed forces. Well, that at least, seems to be what our President thought. That seems to be what he still thinks.
The reality dawns
All that is now a distant, regrettable and insignificant memory. Now, we are at the business end of the day. According to the University of Washington based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the situation in Sri Lanka is not only alarming as it is right now, but could be catastrophic if urgent and scientific measures are not taken immediately.
The prediction that June could be the worse month for Sri Lanka, with the daily death toll hitting 200 and by September, the total tally of deaths could exceed 20, 000 sends shivers down any common sense driven person’s spine. It should, at least.
The Army Commander, who is in charge of the entire ‘war effort’ against the Covid-19 pandemic is adamant that there would be no total lock down of the country.
Instead, the approach seemed to be to isolate particular areas where the virus seems to be raging. But by last night more than 150 Grama Niladhari Divisions were under isolation. The Minister of health , Pavithra Wanniarachchi, who almost went to the ‘other side’ after contracting the virus, was seen at a kovil, yet again engaging in activities that she seem to always rely on rather than concrete and scientific measures that would have been expected as the person in charge of health; invoking the Gods.
Earlier, during the first wave, the Health Minister was seen throwing earthen pots in to rivers, taking gulps of the ‘Dhammika Potion’ and other voodoo stuff. Even before that, she was seen hugging the first Covid-19 case that Sri Lanka had, a Chinese lady while she bragged that Sri Lanka had a 100% cure rate and the pandemic was done and dusted!
That all familiar stench of corruption
While all this is going on and the country is on a cruise ride down the slippery path of damnation of becoming another India, allegations are being raised that widespread and extensive corruption is taking place with regard to many aspects of pandemic management.
From foreign funds received for Covid control, to hotel charges of Sri Lankans who arrive at the airport and are sent for quarantine, to PCR kits, the revulsive stench of corruption is unmistakable.
Social media reports suggest that despite the urge by some quarters of the Rajapaksa Government, the move for a lockdown is resisted by those billionaires who funded the election campaigns for the Government who want their ‘taxi meter’ to keep running.
Just like war, pandemic is good for business and good for corruption. Just as the patriotic rhetoric subdued all the misdeeds, corruption , abuse and excesses associated with the war effort and the massive loss of lives that resulted, the almost utopian hallucination of ‘an economic drive’ seems to justify putting hundreds , thousands and even tens of thousands of lives in jeopardy during pandemic times.
The voice of the Medical professionals, experts and PHI s seem to fall on deaf years. In fact, the PHI s are contemplating walking away from their work due to the harsh treatment they are getting from the military personnel involved with the anti -Covid effort.
In the last few decades Sri Lanka suffered two catastrophes that could have been averted or their impact minimised, if not for negligence, official incompetence and political greed; the Tsunami and the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. With the tsunami, it was official incompetence and negligence that failed to see a warning that was received hours before the first waves struck Sri Lanka coasts.
Tens of thousands died. In the Easter attacks, warnings from foreign intelligence agencies which came weeks before the blasts were unheeded due to the same official incompetence and of course, the political agendas of the rulers.
But this time it is not the official incompetence or negligence that is putting the entire country in harm’s way; the political greed to stay in power and the insatiable greed of those money- spinning business tycoons who backed the election efforts with their ill-gotten billions of rupees.
Now, the vistas that lie ahead for Sri Lanka are very bleak. In fact, there is every possibility of the entire hospital and health care system capitulating under pressure from an unmanageable number of patients coming in every day.
The daily identified cases reported are now above 2,600 and all ICU beds are now occupied. More than 4,000 reported Covid-19 positive patients are in their homes without medical treatment and posing a threat to their families and the neighbourhoods.
While the Government plays see-saw with decision making on whether to lock the country down, based on medical professional’s opinion, the difficulty of managing the situation without massive loss of lives increases and the opportunity of escaping from the latest wave with bearable damage diminishes.
We always knew that we were being ruled by the incapable. But the new idiocy is beyond scope of imagination. That is why they say that idiots do summersaults where wisemen fear to set foot on. Well, when idiocy is coupled with an ego bloated up by undeserved praise, the summersault becomes more dramatic. But in Sri Lanka’s case it is not the idiot who suffers, but as always, the common, ordinary, poor men and women!