Every effort should be made to prevent the deadly triple mutated Indian strain of the virus which was wreaking havoc there from entering the island

The die is cast. Sri Lanka and its government has spectacularly bungled its Covid-19 management in the past few months, leading to a catastrophic ‘third wave’. In the words of a leading physician, it can only get worse before it can get better. The nation must, whether we like it or not, now prepare itself for thousands of corona virus infections and hundreds of deaths.

The unfortunate reality of this ‘third wave’ is that it could have been prevented, if only the government headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa heeded the warnings from health experts and imposed a ‘lockdown’ prior to the New Year rush.

It was apparent to many in the health sector that a spike in the number of infections was coming. They informed the relevant authorities through their respective pathways. They advised that strict restrictions- in effect, a ‘lockdown’- was required to keep the numbers down and prevent disaster.

They were politely told that the advice was being weighed against the possible economic cost. Apparently, a decision had already been taken at the highest levels of government not to ‘lockdown’, no matter what. All this was well before the mind numbingly tragic pictures and videos began emerging from neighbouringIndia.

In fact, the similarities are eerily similar. India is led by Narendra Modi, a politician elected on a nationalist platform who prides on promoting his religion at the expense of others, because he knows that will win him a majority of voters and get him elected comfortably.

Modi also ignored calls for restrictions and went ahead with religious rituals, the Indian Premier League and election rallies. He thought that as long as he led his country, it would remain Covid-free. Now we know it is not, but it is too late for the thousands perishing in funeral pyres every day.


The bungling in Sri Lanka, brought about by a sense of complacency due its successful management of the first wave, and to a lesser extent, the second wave has now proved to be an unmitigated disaster. There was a misplaced sense of ‘nothing can go wrong while I am in charge’ attitude that led to the discarding of medical advice recommending a lockdown.

There were already indicators that matters were not being dealt with in quite the correct way. The ‘holy water’ saga involving the Minister of Health, the state patronage extended to the ‘magic potion’ devised by a charlatan, the invitation extended to Ukrainian tourists were all signs that opportunism- and not sound medical advice- was driving government decision making.    

There were also no concerted efforts being made to obtain the vaccine. Even developed countries were fighting to get their hands on sufficient stocks of the vaccine because, at least in the early stages, the manufacturers could only produce so much which was not enough for the billions of people throughout the world.

Sri Lanka meanwhile happily ignored the vaccine race, being content to accept what came their way in the form of handouts from India, Russia and China- a few hundred thousand vaccines from each of them.

When the vaccine was rolled out in the country, there was no orderly distribution according to the vulnerability of population groups. Only health sector personnel were vaccinated in a systematic manner. If you were not in that category, you needed to ‘know someone who knew someone’ to become vaccinated because only a limited stock was available for distribution to the entire country.

The bungling on the vaccine issue has become so absurd that more than half the number of the Astra Zeneca vaccines available were administered as a first dose. That means that there is a shortage of 600,000 vaccines for the second dose.


Now, the government is saying it would consider vaccinating those who required the second dose with another vaccine. They must be thinking that vaccines are like cocktails, which you can mix and match as you please!

The latest line from the government is that this ‘cocktail’ will be administered once the ‘research’ on such ‘mixing and matching’ of vaccines is completed. It is no co-incidence that a similar ‘research’ conducted on the ‘magic potion’ concocted by a charlatan which the Minister of Health gulped down gleefully has now been found ineffective against the corona virus!      

It was not only the political leadership at the highest levels that was acting irresponsibly. Even junior ministers were taking matters into their own hands. A state minister from Rajarata, a first timer in Parliament and a member of the so-called ‘Viyathmaga’ sacked medical experts from the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) when they refused to approve the Sinopharm vaccine without sufficient data. Now, the government wants to impose this vaccine on Sri Lankans for obvious reasons.

Even at this late stage, the lessons are not being learnt and the political leadership is carrying on regardless, ignoring the disaster that is about to unfold and acting as if nothing is wrong in the way in which the pandemic has been managed.

Just last week, it was still accepting people fleeing India for ‘quarantine’ in Sri Lanka for a mere 690 dollars while medical experts here are saying that every effort should be made to prevent the deadly triple mutated Indian strain of the virus which was wreaking havoc there from entering the island. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority professed ignorance about this but the thinking is that if there is a profit to be made, it had to be done, regardless of what it would do to the health of the nation!        

The medical community is bracing themselves for a pandemic that is likely to extract a humongous death toll from the population. Infections propagated through the season of merrymaking during the New Year are now silently incubating in thousands. Their symptoms are only just appearing. The dreaded complications and the deaths will take a few weeks to emerge.

Sri Lanka is now staring at its worst medical disaster since the malaria epidemic in the 1930s killed 80,000 persons. The rest, as they, will become history- and the government must be held accountable.    


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