With the deadly COVID-19 Pandemic seemingly spreading uncontrolled in Sri Lanka, it’s time that the Government of Sri Lanka does its utmost to get/procure the anti-COVID-19 vaccine/s, though expensive, nonetheless fast and inoculate the vulnerable in society, namely the aged, sick and the very young, with preference given to the indigent within that bracket, free of charge.
This is in the context that since the first case was detected last 27 January, Sri Lanka, at the time of writing, i.e. up to 10 a.m. of Monday (11 January), has suffered 48,380 COVID-19 cases with 232 deaths, including 6,057 of such cases being hospitalised in the review period, causing a strain on the country’s health system.
Further, in the 24 hours ended at 10 a.m. on Monday, Sri Lanka recorded 540 new COVID-19 cases including three deaths, underscoring the gravity of the situation. The criticality of the situation is further exacerbated by the fact that since 1 October of last year (2020) to 10 a.m. on Monday, a total of 103 days, Sri Lanka has suffered on an average 436.95 daily COVID-19 cases and 2.13 daily deaths, whereas such averages from 27 January, 2020, when the first case was recorded to 10 a.m. on 30 September of last year (2020), on an average, stood at only 0.05 daily deaths and 13.60 daily cases reported.
But since then (10 a.m. on 30 September, 2020), to 10 a.m. on Monday, a total of 131 days, the daily COVID-19 death rates have risen, increasing by an astronomical 4,160 per cent and daily new COVID-19 cases by 3,112.87 per cent, respectively, vis-à-vis the two comparative periods, i.e. from an including 27 January of last year to 10 a.m. on 30 September, to 1 October, to 10 a.m. on Monday.
To make matters worse, the number of hospitalised cases who were a mere 131 cases as at 10 a.m. on 30 September 2020, has since risen by a mind boggling 36,831.30 per cent (48,249) to 48,380, causing a strain on the country’s health sector as averred to above.
Meanwhile, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour India, as quoted by ‘India Today’ on its Monday’s issue said that India will begin the ‘world’s largest vaccination programme as early as from Saturday (16 January), i.e. in another 72 hours from now.
In the first phase of the roll-out programme, the target audience will be ‘healthcare workers, frontline workers and the elderly,’ Modi said.
Health workers, Government as well as private, will be vaccinated first of all. Sanitation workers, other frontline workers, defence forces, Police and other paramilitary forces will also be vaccinated in the first phase, numbering a total of 30 million, he added. Thirty million is equivalent to nearly 150 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total population, considering the fact that the island’s population is a little over 20 million.
India has authorised two Covid-19 vaccines - indigenous Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin or even the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India vaccine Covishield for emergency use, the publication said.
These 30 million (three crore) people will get vaccines absolutely free and states will not have to bear the cost, the Premier said, adding that the aim is to vaccinate 300 million (30 crore people) in the next few months, equivalent to nearly 1,500 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population.
For the second phase, probably we will have more vaccines, Modi is quoted to have had said. Two vaccines per person are annually required for such a person to stay ‘COVID-19’ free.
Meanwhile, UK’s Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi speaking at the House of Commons on Monday said that as of date 2.33 million vaccinations have been done, with 1.96 million receiving their first dose and 374,613 having already received both doses in the UK. A figure of 2.33 million is equivalent to 11 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population.
In related developments, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar who was in Sri Lanka last week said that ‘neighbourhood’ will be the priority region for India when it starts sharing Covid-19 vaccines internationally.
Further, Beijing-owned CGTV on Friday (8 January) said that Indonesia would start to inoculate its people today ( Wednesday 13 January) with the China manufactured vaccine Sinovac, with plans to vaccinate about 67 per cent of its population – about 181.5 million people, to achieve herd immunity.
CGTV also reported that Thailand, aiming to inoculate at least half of its 70 million population should receive a delivery of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine by next month (February). Thailand has ordered two million doses from Sinovac in total, equivalent to 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population.
Further, Philippines aims to finalise negotiations with Sinovac to acquire 25 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for delivery by March, CGTV added.
‘We have already conveyed to Sinovac representatives our needs, 25 million for 2021 (this year), he told a news conference, adding that vaccine distribution was targeted for March.
In that context where does Sri Lanka stand?