Sri Lanka was at ease and enjoyed a period of a relative community transmission-free state in the past two months. Now, it is confronted with unpleasant ground reality and the gigantic task of containment of the Covid-19 new wave.
During the last few months, we experienced frequent imported corona infections (arrivals from other countries through our two airports). When one considers the nature of the spread of coronavirus (an infection by droplets), it is hard to believe that it would not leak out to the community at large, eventually. In fact, in such a situation, the virus reaching the community is the rule rather than the exception. Thus, it was a matter of time and a situation that was waiting to happen. Over this matter, proceeding to this new corona wave, the Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, quite correctly emphasized and perhaps warned of the possible outcome very unambiguously.
The nature of human behavior is such that people show a tendency to relax when things do not appear dangerous. It would be exceedingly difficult to keep the entire 22 million-strong population focused on one aim, as there are people with many different mindsets and understandings.
Sri Lanka experienced manageable numbers in our treatment centers, conducted good follow-ups, and contact tracing in the past few months. Therefore, the quarantine process was well within our grasp. When we are suddenly confronted with over 1000 patients within a few days, then good contract tracing, follow-ups, and quarantine processes become exceedingly difficult due to practical reasons. Each patient reported tends to have had at least 20 – 25 contacts during their asymptomatic period. This would total over 20,000 contacts for tracing and follow up in a very short period of time.
Since almost all people, without any exception, exhibited quite a relaxed behavior with regard to preventive measures, it is counterproductive to accuse each other. Though difficult, we still should be able to contain the episode, should the people act with a sense of responsibility. It is the need of the hour.
Prof ANANDA JAYASINGHE
Department of Community Medicine
Faculty of Medicine