Yesterday, this newspaper ran its lead story under the heading, ‘New Year Cluster Creates Mini Clusters Island wide’ with one of three bottom straplines which read, ‘Large number of patients identified from amongst those who had been to Nuwara Eliya and Kataragama. To quote relevant excerpts, where the article was based on comments made by Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera among others, Samaraweera said, “…a large number of patients had been identified from amongst those who had been to Nuwara Eliya and Kataragama following last month’s Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
The National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) said by 8:30 p.m. 1,891 positive cases had been detected all of them were contacts of the New Year Cluster, it said.” The question the authorities, including the Police should ask themselves is, ‘How many of those Nuwara-Eliya-Kataragama COVID-19 ‘law breakers’ did the Police charge? If not, why not? Meanwhile, ‘The Local,’ a multi-regional, European, English-language digital news publisher with local editions in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, on its Norway’s English edition of 9 April, ran a story under the heading, ‘Norwegian prime minister fined for Covid-19 rules breach.’ It further said, “The South East police district has finished its investigation into the ‘episode’ and concluded that there was a breach of national infection control rules.
The Prime Minister broke infection control measures when 13 family members were gathered at the restaurant in Geilo, a popular skiing destination. At the time, only 10 people could gather in such settings. ‘I take note of the police decision. I have previously said that if the restaurant visit is followed up with fines, then we will of course make up for it. I apologise for what happened and will pay the fine,’ Norwegian Premier Erna Solberg said in a statement. Solberg was fined 20,000 kroner (Rs476,800) for her ‘crime.’ Despite not being present at the meal, due to having an eye checkup in Oslo, Solberg is considered to be one of the event’s organisers as she participated in the decision to host the dinner and was involved in choosing a restaurant.
Despite police saying the prime minister’s husband, Sindre Finnes, role would also fall under that of an organiser, he will not be fined. ‘The practical arrangements were made by Solberg’s husband, but Solberg was involved in the decision to eat out,’ police chief Ole B. Sæverud said at a press conference. The police said that such a case would not normally lead to punishment, unless special considerations dictate it. They believe that this case meets the special considerations criteria as finding Solberg guilty without any punishment could have a negative impact on the population’s compliance with coronavirus restrictions.
‘Even though the law is equal for everyone, not everyone is equal. Solberg is the country’s, foremost elected official and has on a number of occasions fronted the government’s decisions on measures to counter the pandemic. It is therefore considered appropriate to react with punishment, in order to maintain the public’s trust in the infection control rules,’Sæverud said. The restaurant Solberg’s family ate at, Hallingstuene, will not receive a fine. ‘If we had come across the incident while it was taking place, we would have clarified the regulations and, if necessary, given orders to end the event. A punitive response would only be considered if the event was carried out in a clearly contagious manner, or there was a case of repeated violation,’ said Sæverud.
The prime minister’s family met twice over a weekend in late February as part of her 60th birthday celebrations in Geilo. On the day in question there were more than 10 people present at an apartment they had rented. However, as the regulations were unclear at the time police said that this was not a criminal violation. Solberg apologised for the breach when it was first reported in March. ‘I, who every single day stand and speak about infection control to the Norwegian people, should have known the rules better.
But the truth is that I have not checked the rules well enough, and thus not realised that when a family goes out together and there are more than ten persons, it is actually an event,’ she said at the time.” If Sri Lanka doesn’t follow the Norwegian example, together with a vaccination and the required cold chain rollout, there seemingly won’t be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Inequity in law translates to the perpetuation of iniquity, with disastrous consequences to the country