Managing COVID-19

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 6 2021

While democracies such as New Zealand and the UK, to give just two examples, have accepted the fact that their countries will have to live with COVID-19, China, the world’s second largest economy, however, adopts a zero tolerance policy on COVID-19.

Such zero tolerance policy adopted by China leads to a lockdown/shutdown even if at the most a handful of cases with COVID-19 are detected from a particular area. Yesterday, the South China Morning Post quoting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the country’s (new Zealand’s) ‘return to zero’ goal for combating COVID-19 would be difficult to achieve after an outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant. 

Ardern says the country will have to transition from heavy lockdowns to a larger focus on vaccinations, now that vaccine access is available for the general population. 

Sri Lanka too has seemingly adopted that policy, underlined by the fact that the economy, after being in a semi-lockdown mode for 41 days was reopened on Friday, the day COVID-19 deaths passed the 13,000 mark to record the fourth highest cause of death, manmade or natural, post Independence. 

The first was the LTTE terrorists war which caused 250,000 deaths; the second was the second JVP insurgency of 29 July 1987 which caused 60,000 deaths of mainly Sinhalese and the third was the 26 December 2004 tsunami which caused 40,000 deaths. Prior to Friday’s COVID-19’s fourth highest death record, that record was held by the JVP insurgency of 5 April 1971 which too caused the deaths of mainly 13,000 Sinhalese. 

As at Monday, according to latest Health Promotion Bureau records, the total number of COVID-19 deaths reported were 13,102 since the first COVID-19 death was recorded by the Epidemiology Unit (EU) on 29 March 2020. 

These 13,102 deaths are equivalent to 0.06 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total population on the basis that it’s presumed that the island’s total population is 22 million. Sri Lanka, since 19 March 2020 to 1 October 2021 practised four lockdowns/semi-lockdowns in a vain bid to control COVID and at a tremendous cost to the economy. Meanwhile, as at 8.30 p.m. on Monday Sri Lanka had fully vaccinated 54.21 per cent (11.93 million) of its 22 million population and another 12.15 per cent (2.67 million) of its population with only the first vaccine dose. 

A person is considered fully vaccinated if he/she has obtained two vaccine doses within the maximum period of time stipulated for the vaccines to be effective for a year between the first and the second dose. The time duration between the two doses varies from vaccine to vaccine, with the USA having had produced three vaccines, with one of those needing only one jab to be effective for a year, while in the case of the other two, two jabs are needed. 

The UK has produced one vaccine variant with licensing permission to countries such as Japan and India to manufacture the same, China (two) and Russia (one), where in respect of each of those vaccines two jabs are needed to be effective as described above. Sri Lanka is using six of the seven vaccine variants available in the market, except for the vaccine variant where only one jab is needed. According to the Finance Ministry’s 2020 Annual Report, Sri Lanka plans to fully vaccinate a minimum of 60 per cent (13.2 million) of its population by the year end. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 20 August, in his address to the nation, made, coinciding with the hitherto last lockdown/travel restrictions which were effective from 10 p.m. on 20 August to 4 a.m. on 1 October, to quote excerpts said, “The accepted opinion of the World Health Organisation, the majority of medical experts and according to the global standardised methodology is that the vaccination is the only solution for the COVID-19 pandemic.” Meanwhile, according to New Zealand’s Health Ministry, as at 11.59 p.m. on Monday, 49 per cent of its total population have been vaccinated while another 26 per cent had got the first dose only. 

It also said that a total equivalent to 72 per cent of its population has booked for full vaccinations while another nine per cent have booked themselves for the first dose. Sri Lanka has no such booking system seemingly because demand outstrips supply, making such booking systems redundant. This writer knows of certain undergraduates reading for their degrees in a State university located in the Colombo District who have got only one jab, but have not got the second, with the latter apparently overdue by one-and-a-half months after the receipt of the first. 

New Zealand in total has suffered 27 COVID deaths equivalent to a negligible 0.0005 per cent of its 5.11 million population as opposed to Sri Lanka’s 0.06 per cent out of a 22 million population. New Zealand’s success in tackling COVID vis-a-vis Sri Lanka is two fold. Firstly, that country was rich enough to ensure the welfare of its people despite lockdowns, thereby making certain no one went hungry and the other discipline, underlined by the fact that the law was equal to all. Now that Sri Lanka has reopened its economy, the rule of law and vaccinations will ensure the successful management of COVID-19.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 6 2021

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