Editorial: Truth about the ‘Second Wave’ | Sunday Observer

Editorial: Truth about the ‘Second Wave’

Society and social media are abuzz with speculation that Sri Lanka is on the cusp of a so-called ‘Second Wave’ of the Coronavirus as seen in many of our neighbouring countries. This was after the detection of a cluster at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre for drug addicts. Unfortunately, a few employees and instructors of this centre have had contact with the outside world, which means that some of their close contacts were also infected with the disease.

However, to their credit, the authorities sprang into action swiftly and identified the infected inmates, their contacts as well as the contacts of the instructors. They managed to successfully trace even the third level contacts of these infected persons and confine them to their homes pending the results of PCR tests.

Only a few tracts in Rajanganaya were subjected to a lockdown, affecting around 15,000 persons. It does not mean that hundreds of infected persons could be found in this area – just that PCR tests are being conducted to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, the online rumour mills had worked overtime to paint a grim picture that the disease had spread to all corners and that Sri Lanka would soon become another Italy, Brazil or Spain. People were again talking of a lockdown and curfew, with some even stocking up on essential goods.

But the ground reality was different. The health authorities and Security Forces had traced almost everyone associated with the Kandakadu cluster, minimising the risk of further social transmission. The only ‘lockdown’ per se was in Rajanganaya.

And on Thursday, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe reassured the nation that there is no need for a lockdown or curfew as the health authorities are in full control of the Kandakadu situation and there is no sign of a new wave of social transmission of Covid-19.

However, there indeed are attempts in social media and by the political opposition to paint a different picture. Prime Minister Rajapaksa decried attempts by the Opposition in their election campaigns to portray the recent discovery of positive patients associated with the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre as a ‘Second Wave’ of the Coronavirus.

He rightly urged the Opposition not to use the Coronavirus situation to gain political mileage and create fear among the people. “Unfortunately, the message we hear from the Opposition political stage is that only Sri Lanka has a Covid problem and that it is extensive, which is not the case at all. The media must highlight the true situation to the people,” he added.

The leaders of the UNP, SJB and JJB must heed this call and also prevail on their candidates not to create fear and panic among the people. The Premier also exhorted the media to report the facts correctly and educate the people on Coronavirus prevention methods. All must get together to defeat this contagion, he stressed.

As Dr Jasinghe explained at this briefing, many other countries that experienced rapid social transmission of the disease did not have the efficient contact tracing capability that Sri Lanka has.

Contact tracing was the key to avoid social transmission as the first, second and even the third level contacts can be quickly identified and isolated, he said. This has been made possible by the sheer dedication of the Military Intelligence Units and Police assigned to this rather difficult task.

One cannot expect the Government alone to control a pandemic of this nature that has now claimed nearly 600,000 lives (11 in Sri Lanka) and infected around 14 million people worldwide. Public cooperation is essential.

We could clearly see a ‘dropping of the guard’ by many people and even institutions after Sri Lanka did not record any cases for around 3-4 weeks at a stretch. From doing away with masks to giving up hand washing, many people simply went back to their pre-March lives.

However, one cannot take such liberties with a virulent pathogen, which can lurk anywhere. With the World Health Organization (WHO) now acknowledging that the virus can remain airborne for several hours, there is an even greater chance of catching it. This is also why we cannot dismiss the emergence of a second wave out of hand, even though we are in a far better position when compared to most other countries in the region and elsewhere.

Hence, the importance of wearing a mask whenever you are outdoors or even indoors in an unfamiliar environment.

Even US President Donald Trump, who ardently opposed the use of masks, has now come around and is wearing one. A face mask can help save your life as well as those of others. So do yourself a favour – wear one.

The key word here is ‘New Normal’. It will not be possible to go back to our old lives and lifestyles for at least a couple of years, when a vaccine could finally be available at an affordable rate.

Until then, we will have to live with certain restrictions and practices that may help save our lives. Some, like washing hands frequently or applying sanitiser, could actually be continued even after this danger passes.

Research done locally has found that respiratory diseases among the population have dropped drastically as most other viruses have also been destroyed as a result of hygiene practices. That is not a bad outcome at all.

We must cooperate with the health authorities in every possible way to keep our country safe from the Coronavirus.