Winning COVID-19 War

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 25 2021

Yesterday this newspaper as its lead story carried a news item which had a strapline called ‘Regular health guidelines violators’ with the heading ‘Rs 50,000 Fine Mulled.’

 To quote excerpts it said, “The Government is considering increasing the current Rs 5,000 fine up to Rs 50,000 for those who regularly violate health guidelines put in place to control the spread of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi warned. 

She affirmed that this measure was being seriously mulled by her Ministry as the public continue to act oblivious to health guidelines imposed to tackle the countrywide spread of the fatal illness. 

The Minister stressed that she was optimistic that the Government will be able to effectively control the rapid spread of the third wave of the virus by forcing the public to adhere to the currently imposed health regulations 24/7. Wanniarachchi explained that it was not beyond the Government to tackle the spread of the third wave as they had done so effectively during the first and second waves. 

The Minister said that health regulations currently put in place to control the spread of the disease will be implemented strictly by her Ministry in conjunction with the Police Department…” While ensuring the adherence to health guidelines is imperative to curb the spread of COVID-19, it’s also equally important to ensure the full inoculation of at least 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population as expeditiously as possible. That onus is on the Government. 

A full inoculation comprises once and for all one vaccination of the U.S.A.’s Johnson and Johnson vaccine or the two spaced out jabs of the other vaccines currently available to fight this disease, spaced out as prescribed by the health authorities, with the spacing out periods differing from the type of vaccine manufacture. 

Yesterday’s State-controlled Daily News, quoting Wanniarachchi speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, to quote excerpts said, “The Government is taking all possible measures to get the second set of AstraZeneca doses for the 582,000 who only got its first dose... …Wanniarachchi said that 925,240 people were given the AstraZeneca vaccine’s first doze, and of them, 357,868 have received the second doze. 

She said that initially the World Health Organisation (WHO) had prescribed the second doze to be administered four weeks after the administration of the first dose, but was later changed to 12 weeks and eventually to 16 weeks…” Sixteen weeks comprise a total of 112 days. 

If one backdates 112 days from yesterday, if a person received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on 4 March 2021, then he/she should have had received the second dose by yesterday, This newspaper knows of cases who got their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on 7 March 2021. That means for the vaccine to be potent such persons should receive their second doze by Sunday (27 June) the latest, fulfilling Wanniarachchi’s 112-day period for such vaccines to be efficacious. 

The Minister said that the delay in obtaining the second AstraZeneca dose was due to India’s own problems with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka, until now, received the AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured under licence by India. On Tuesday, this newspaper carried an article under the heading ‘SL to get 600,000 AstraZeneca doses from UK in July.’ To quote excerpts, it said, “Sri Lanka will probably receive 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine gratis, directly from its parent company in the UK next month (July) via the Geneva-based World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX facility, it is learnt. 

This was approved by the WHO on 18 June, 2021. Previously, in March 2021, Sri Lanka received the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine from WHO’s COVAX facility also gratis, comprising 264,000 doses with the then promise of the culmination of the receipt of a total of 1,440,000 doses arriving by last month (May). 

This first batch of vaccine doses received in March was manufactured by Serum Institute, India, under licence from AstraZeneca, UK. But Sri Lanka receiving a total of 1,440,000 doses from WHO by last month end was not to be. This was because India fell victim to its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the other reason, Sri Lanka not providing WHO with its vaccine rollout plan. 

But that requirement was ultimately fulfilled by the Government only on 18 June, thereby receiving WHO‘s stamp of approval also on that day, which cleared the deck for Sri Lanka to receive the balance WHO vaccines, also gratis, where WHO planned to deliver to the country a total of 8.4 million vaccine doses to cover nearly 20 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population by the year end. 

It’s also learnt that this target of WHO still stands, despite other bottlenecks springing up since the first instalment was delivered on 7 March to Thursday, 17 June, a total of 102 days, such as the re-emergence of the COVID-19 crisis in India and problems relating to the vaccine rollout plan in Sri Lanka itself…” Who was responsible for this 102-day delay? Obviously the Government. The Government, before it checks on the people, must first check itself.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 25 2021

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