Must learn to live with coronavirus like we do with dengue

Friday, 21 August 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The dilemma is that we will have more CV when we open the country to visitors and if we do not open the country we will continue to suffer from the economic depression – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara 

There are many similarities between CV and dengue. Both get their victims surreptitiously. The dengue mosquito looks very similar to any other mosquito. It bites you and disappears. There are no tell-tale signs left behind to tell you that you have been bitten by a dengue mossie. It is a silent attack. Only days later when one gets a fever and it does not quite feel like the old flu that one will test and find it is dengue and needs urgent treatment. It is not an insignificant illness that rarely gets a victim. So far this year it is reported that there were 23,000 cases of dengue with 25 deaths. Probably many more, as like me there are likely to be many more that did not report it to anyone.

CV is similar in many ways. One gets infected by a CV bacteria through droplets from an infected person and like dengue there are no immediately visible tell-tale signs. After a few days one does not feel well with a fever and a cough and only then tests for CV.

This year to date it was reported that there were 23,000 cases of dengue and 25 deaths. We have had 2,839 cases of CV and 11 deaths. Arguably dengue is at least as serious and probably a more serious problem than CV.

No panic with dengue 

There is no panic about dengue as we have learnt to live with it. 

The government is not issuing thousands of bottles of insect repellent. They have not created new hospitals for dengue patients even though the disease can be fatal. With dengue most people recover and a very small percentage die. It is similar with CV as most people recover and a very small percentage die. CV causes breathing problems for some people and require hospital treatment and a few with dengue have problems with their blood platelet count and require hospital treatment and possibly blood transfusions.

So, dengue and CV have many similarities. Some will get it, and very few will die. But the response of society is very different. There is a real panic about CV, but dengue does not get star treatment. Unlike the daily drama with CV with health chiefs on telly everyday talking about it, dengue at best gets a few lines in the press occasionally.

The impact on society

The economic life of the country has not been disrupted by dengue. It is accepted as something that happens and will continue to happen and all that can be done is to take sensible precautions. The challenge is to create a similar mindset about CV, and to thereby prevent CV having a major impact on the economy. The challenge is to get the leaders and the general population to accept with equanimity that CV will be around for a long time and that thousands will get infected and, some will show no symptoms, almost all will recover and a few about 2% of those who get CV will die.

The key challenge  

The most important challenge confronting the country is to create an economic recovery. It is very difficult and perhaps not possible to create a vibrant economic revival without a revival in tourism. This is the big piece in the economic jigsaw. The beneficial tentacles of tourism spread through to all parts of the economy. The profits made by hotels and the taxes they pay is only a small part of the benefits from tourism. Tourism is like an octopus with its tentacles spreading in all directions. 

The wages sent home by employees to family, in the village back home, is a significant contributor to the rural economy. Then we have all the shops and restaurants and wayside boutiques, and the small producers of handicrafts and the tuk tuk drivers, and a variety of other providers of service all of whom benefit from tourism. In addition to its beneficial impact on society, the country gets much needed foreign currency from tourism. To kick start all these sectors back to life we must open our airports and ports and allow tourists to come.

What happens then?

The inevitable will happen and a few will bring CV to Sri Lanka. They will have contacts and those contacts will have contacts, etc. and we must expect a rise in the numbers with CV. However although the numbers with CV will increase, possibly dramatically, the pattern of the disease, will remain the same, and most will recover, and a small percentage will die.

We must take sensible controls to minimise the impact of CV. The operative words are sensible controls. They have to be gentle. If we aggressively harass tourists, keep them in quarantine and ask that they do weekly tests, etc., the tourists will not come.

The dilemma is that we will have more CV when we open the country to visitors and if we do not open the country we will continue to suffer from the economic 


The challenge 

The challenge is to get society to shed their fears of CV, and to think of it like any other short duration illness that unfortunately causes a few deaths. From this distance according to what we see in the news and from what I have gathered talking to a few friends in the UK, Boris Johnson’s strategy is for all to take CV with a shrug and to lead a normal life and to thereby create the economic revival. 

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