Lockdowns are damaging the economy and causing immense hardships to millions of people – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
|We must live in hope that our political leadership will emerge from under the blanket and do away with all the controls that are strangling the economy and say from tomorrow life will carry on normally
The challenge is to manage COVID without destroying the economy. This task is clearly the responsibility of the Government and not the responsibility of the medical profession.
An interesting view was reported in the UK Times newspaper recently. Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group, said: “Every country would need an honest debate about what level of disease and death was acceptable to endure in exchange for avoiding restrictions.
He added: “I think in the UK around 100 deaths a day, throughout the year, 30,000 deaths a year, in the current situation with the current vaccines, current treatments, current capacity within the system, I think is a level that would have to in the end be acceptable.”
Sri Lanka needs to have this honest debate
Lockdowns are damaging the economy and causing immense hardships to millions of people. Accepting a level of trauma to save the economy is the key decision that President Rajapaksa and his Government have to make, urgently.
Doctors are not economists or business veterans that understand how to sustain an economy. Doctors have blinkers and see only the one side of saving a few lives, so they are likely to chant lockdown. It is the politicians that have to balance some dying and not killing the economy.
We made a similar value judgement years ago when we accepted that many soldiers will die and it was the price to pay to defeat the Tigers.
Doctors are important
Doctors are important people in any community. In the current scenario their task is to manage COVID illness until a person is well again. If they have a 100% success rate and nobody dies there will be no COVID saga.
We expect to recover from the flu, and that is the normal expectation, but we know that some people for a variety of pre-existing conditions may succumb and die of flu. If the doctors can get COVID into the same wavelength as the flu, of most recovering, but a few dying and they can get the community to see it like that the drama now surrounding COVID will be gone.
The doctors are doing an excellent job and only two out of every 100 who get COVID die. Their task is to continuously develop the best protocol for treating all stages of the COVID illness. The challenge to take away the fear and drama of COVID is firmly in the hands of the medical profession.
It creates confusion when doctors migrate into other areas and express views on what can and cannot be done in the country. To the community this is a signal that the doctors have given up and feel defeated about treating COVID, and so they propound the lockdown cure of running away, and hiding, until COVID goes away.
COVID scene in England
Right now I am in the UK. I see from my study the river Thames flowing serenely, and like the Thames, life is flowing serenely in the community. The roads are busy, people are bustling about, nobody is wearing masks, the restaurants are full, the cinemas are crowded and the stands were full in the recent India versus England test matches.
But there is COVID. Yesterday 37,314 new cases and 114 deaths were reported. Although large numbers are testing positive, there is no panic .The people have got COVID into the right perspective. The doctors here are not panic merchants. They are exactly the opposite. They are instilling confidence that a very high percentage will recover, and hence are not destroying the economy like we are doing in Sri Lanka.
The health authorities are very positive. There is an excellent vaccination programme going on, and there are news reports telling people that a variety of drugs are being used to treat COVID , such as Dexamethasone that cuts the risk of death by 30%,Tocilizumab which increases the chance of survival of patients with breathing problems, Remdesvir for pneumonia, Budesonide that reduces recovery time, etc.
The Health Secretary announced very recently that the UK drugs regulator has approved Ronapreve (Trump was apparently given it when he got CV). Ronapreve gives speedy recovery and prevents CV after exposure to a carrier.
In England there is no panic about COVID as people have got it into the right perspective. They would see from daily reports that there were 10,187 deaths from all causes in the last week and of which COVID accounted for only 5.2% of all deaths. They would see similar reports regularly.
People die every day and if this did not happen we will run out of space on the planet. People die of a variety of causes and COVID is just one of them. Everybody here knows of someone who got COVID and recovered. Two sets of my neighbours here in England got COVID, isolated at home, and recovered. There is now a vigorous vaccination drive which people will find reassuring.
When you put all this into the pot, one ends up removing the panic about COVID and life flows serenely like the Thames. That’s the great achievement of the political leadership. Full marks to them for having saved the economy.
We need in Sri Lanka a good communication campaign to explain COVID, and to get it perceived as something a little more than a bad flu season. Everybody should be made to understand that if 100 people get COVID, 98 will recover fully. That will take the panic out and get everybody getting on with their plans and thereby reviving the economy. This would be good task for the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing.
COVID has not stopped initiatives in UK. The Government just announced a new defence pact with the USA. A number of countries were taken off the red list to facilitate holiday travel during next month’s half-term school holidays. The Prime Minister met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and agreed on a GBP 10 million deal. JPMorgan unveiled a UK digital bank. The UK Business Secretary visited Saudi Arabia and negotiations are underway for investment.
All these are snippets from newspapers and I referred to them to illustrate that the UK is not sleeping covering its head with a blanket waiting for COVID to go away. They are charging ahead quite normally and COVID has not made a lot of difference. Life goes on normally, side by side with COVID, as it gets new cases and deaths. The big difference with us is that we are exactly the opposite. Everything has stopped as we are frightened stiff by COVID.
We must live in hope that our political leadership will emerge from under the blanket and do away with all the controls that are strangling the economy and say from tomorrow life will carry on normally. The people will then go to the temple, church, kovil and mosque to thank God.