High Risk in Lifting Curfew
By Lakshman I.Keerthisinghe
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”
Mark Zuckerberg, FB Founder
The Government decided to extend the curfew by another 10 days from 21 September to 4 am on 1 October, as medical experts had advised to do so. The Association of Medical Specialists of Sri Lanka is of the opinion that Sri Lanka still remains as a high risk Nations (Red List) with regard to COVID-19. Sri Lanka has just started to witness the positive impact of the sustained lockdown with a gradual decline in the case load, oxygen requirements and mortality rate.
The brunt of the ill effects of the lockdown was borne by the hardest hit poorest stratum of our country. While feeling strongly for their immense hardships one must not ignore that a further period of extension of these travel restrictions will be required to reap the benefits of all the sacrifices of the entire Nation. Therefore, we feel that due consideration should be given to long term gains overlooking short term losses when the extension of the lockdown is reviewed. As a country, our aim should be to move to the (Green Zone) from the current “red zone” in a sustainable manner as quickly as we can.
With this in mind, the Association of Medical Specialists AMS would like to request the decision makers to seriously consider taking this lockdown further to the beginning of early next month, as previously suggested by the widely represented local experts who scientifically analysed the data they received from credible international sources, when WHO facilitated such brainstorming.
If the relaxation of current restrictions happens too soon, there is a high possibility of a severe spread of the disease resulting in a sudden rise of hospital admissions making the health care facilities unable to cope with such a high number of patients. This can unfortunately increase the death rate specially with the identification of the delta variant as the dominant culprit throughout the country. Vaccination of school children with a view of reopening schools should be dealt with utmost caution. We endorse the recommendations of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians regarding the vaccination of “high risk groups”.
However, vaccination of all school children needs further substantiation of international studies weighing risks and benefits. As of today, if this age group needs vaccination, Pfizer BioNTech should be considered as the most suitable vaccine and this should never be rushed without taking time for critical analysis, more so in the younger age groups – especially the 12-15 age group. When schools re-open hurriedly, children in common conveyance systems with their playful behaviour will invariably result in another wave due to “school clusters”, while not forgetting the fact the crowd that is added to spread the disease will be far more than the number of school children.
Revival of tourism is undoubtedly a need of the hour as a solution to the present economic crisis. However, well calculated, broad based and transparent mechanism should be introduced to attract tourists from all over the world. Therefore, a sound methodology should be adopted to ensure that Sri Lanka is safe for all and not only for few countries of choice. We have witnessed much debate and recommendations regarding a third dose. We as a professional organisation strongly believe in social equity and justice.
We feel that it is morally incorrect and unacceptable to consider a third dose for otherwise healthy and young people until the entire vulnerable population (those above 60 years and those with recognised risk factors for severe COVID in any age) are vaccinated. In addition, we must ensure that the above mentioned risk group who received two dose of Sinopharm should receive a third dose of Pfizer or similar vaccines. We believe this as a reason for comparatively higher percentage of fully vaccinated older persons (Over 60) have died of COVID19 in Sri Lanka.
The mindset of the young 20-30 year old needs to be changed with effective education to focus on the fact that Sinopharm vaccine gives them excellent immunity based on the data available, and the need of the hour is for them to receive the Sinopharm vaccine faster to make Sri Lanka Covid free sooner the AMS concluded. In conclusion, taking of risks at the expense of losing many human lives is not advisable following the advice of medical experts is paramount in this regard.
The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil. (Colombo)- [email protected] co.uk