How countries are faring so far during the Covid-19 Pandemic!
Posted on June 16th, 2020

Sarath Bulathsinghala

It is not easy to compare the response of different countries with one yardstick. It is also not quite correct to say that the New Zealand Covid-19 Free Declaration is a camouflage. I should say that New Zealand handled the situation in a fair and humanitarian way and with a firm hand at the helm.

New Zealand housed and monitored 7755 people in hotel rooms from 10 April to 19 May. 12 of them were tested positive during this period. The total number of confirmed and probable cases were 1504. New Zealand is now declared Corvid-19 free and no more ‘social distancing’! The borders remain close for the time being as Corvid-19 still continue to play havoc around the world.

The effort in New Zealand was to be Corvid-19 free at the earliest possible day and hit the road running to get the economy moving.

In Sri Lanka, it was largely a humanitarian exercise. The economy already at the rock bottom thanks to near five years of disastrous Jadapalanaya there was not much of an economy to rescue. What they had to do to date has been in spite of a belligerent political opposition who were opposed to anything and everything that the Government could do with an ever-watchful eye to discredit the administration. The former Leader of the Opposition who offered to give free sanitary pads to women as an election promise at the last Presidential Election, even went on to the extent of prescribing medications – Chloroquine now universally accepted as injurious to those with Covid-19 infections!

President Gotabhaya did an excellent job of giving unwavering leadership as well as coordinating all the activities of the relevant organisations to combat the pandemic effectively. All actions were taken in consultation with the health authorities, the Armed Services and the security and intelligence services in tow. In fact, the top authority was the Director General of Health Services and the buck stopped with him literally. The only trump card Sri Lanka had and has is the Free Healthcare System – curative and preventative network that extend to every nook and corner of the Island.

The concept of ‘chase and apprehend’ policy was employed using the State Intelligence Services who helped identify and quarantine or hospitalize where necessary the infected, the close family and those that came into close contact with lightning speed. The Armed Services were used to establish and maintain professionally close to 50 well-disciplined Quarantine facilities, according to health services guidelines. The praises of those leaving these quarantine facilities after completing the requisite quarantine period speak for themselves of the quality of love, care and service they received at their hands.

Sri Lanka continued to bring back her citizens from around the world beginning with students from the Hubei Province at the height of the pandemic in China, then students stranded all over the world, pilgrims and others soon as air travel was possible to those distant destinations. At home stranded tourists were well looked after by a generous population as well as business leaders.

The rumour mongering machines of the political opposition are busy saying that the government is not divulging the actual number of the infected. This is somewhat foolhardy as it is not easy to hide any one dead let alone infected as people are well informed of the symptoms of the disease and are not afraid to tell on each other! Moreover actual figures have to be passed on to the WHO almost daily!

Militarily powerful countries such as the USA, China, Britain, Russia, France gave prominence to maintaining their position of power – economically and militarily. These countries made humanitarian considerations a lesser priority ahead of power and economy. All except China allowed ‘herd immunity’ or ‘natural survival of the fittest’ concept priority though not saying so in so many words. China attacked the pandemic almost as if it was war and has largely succeeded!

Others gave prominence to their economies – these include Germany, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, India and to a lesser extent New Zealand. In countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and a host of similar other countries, the Covid-19 situation is in free fall due to a host of other reasons including cultural, religious and the level of poverty or neglect.

Countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Sri Lanka have fared well in terms of – the overall number of fatalities and infected – all well under one per million of population dead and those infected under one hundred per million of population. The former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka adduce these to the fact these countries are largely Buddhist and hence under the protection of well-meaning gods – perhaps eyeing the Buddhist vote at the coming General Election!

All over the world ‘near now or former authoritarian countries’ have fared well, their populations being rather ‘compliant’! Highly medically sanitized countries have fared worst probably for having depleted immunity. The population density too is a factor that should be taken into consideration in comparisons. This though is not entirely a true indicator as high or very high concentrations can happen in the cities of even sparsely populated countries! The spread and control of Corvid-19 at the Dharavi  slum in Mumbai, India is a classic case now under the microscope.

In the final analysis when all is ‘over or near over’ there must be an honest assessment as to how different countries fared during the Covid-19 pandemic taking into consideration all factors – strategic, economic, social, cultural and religious! I am fairly confident that Sri Lanka’s performance would be found at or near the very top!

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