By M.M. Janapriya –
Pandemics make or break leaders; so is the ability to inculcate a sense of confidence in the electorate. One might remember famous bigot-gate and dither-gate confounding British general elections of 2010 when Gordon Brown lost to a rather innocuous conservative party led by David Cameron. Electorate in advanced countries do not like leaders who seem to waver or dither in making decisions. They would like someone who would forthrightly commit to something and stand by it even if it turns out to be wrong in the end. Take the case Tony Blair who together with George Bush Junior took the country to war against Saddam Hussain in search of weapons of mass destruction (MWD) that didn’t exist. Saddam Hussain fell, a few hundred Royal Marines paid with their lives but no MWD were found; the electorate was quiet nonetheless. This degree of steadfastness necessitates an overwhelming exuberance of confidence which the electorate finds comforting in the leadership.
This reminds me of a friend of mine at med school who at the final MBBS held the floor with so much confidence and presented the long case in Medicine as if the latter had an enlarged spleen when she indeed had a normal spleen instead. The guy had been given a tip off by a friend who saw a similar patient the previous day in whom the man had missed an enlarged spleen. Examiners knowing their students well enough had changed the patient in the night. All the same my friend’s brimming confidence created serious enough doubt in the examiners minds for them to go back to the patient and examine her carefully to see if they have missed an enlarged spleen themselves! This is what confidence can do and right now our leaders seem to be struggling to find it.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa faced the first wave of Covid-19 Sri Lanka with stark firmness and led an unwavering team that worked around the clock to make sure the virus did not get a firm foothold in the country. As with any island-wide program there were areas needing improvement like inter departmental communication, releasing authentic information to the public etc. but by and large it was a job done well enough. Amongst the decisions made by the Presidential Task Force was the decision to cremate all corona dead to minimize the spread of the virus. This was gazetted by the then DGHS and was stuck to the letter by the ‘foot soldiers’. The decision to cremate all Corona dead was in keeping with the guidelines given by the WHO at that time.
Even in the west incineration of infected bodies was deemed the best way to dispose of the dead to keep the virus at bay. Here is a link as to what happened in the UK. Following protests by the some MPP the law was amended (but not repealed) to give local authorities some leeway to accommodate the sensitivities of members of the society without compromising health and safety of the locality. Even though the law is self-explanatory the Minister in charge writes to the local authorities as follows. Actually this is a classic display of British diplomacy. They are playing with words to comfort the faiths affected while reserving the right of enforced cremation if needed.
I am on purpose going to avoid the debate revolving around possible withdrawal of the mandatory burial program because I am very aware of the sentiments of the affected groups and can empathize with them with ease but I am also fully aware of the possible dangers burial of Covid dead can pose to the general public. Hence any reversal of existing law has to be done with utmost circumspect as consequences can be disastrous.
I am sure with arguments being hurled at the powers that be including world authorities in virology, as members of laity the administration must be very confused as to what best to do. My endeavor here is to help the administration make the correct decision. I want people running my country to be confident and act boldly. I do not like people running my country dithering of and backtracking on important, especially life and death matters. My arguments I feel would empower them to make the right decision without feeling being held at ransom.
It has been said over one of the last weekend broadsheets that viruses being pieces of genetic material needing a living host for survival would perish with the death of the host. At face value this seems correct but great scientists often make mistakes in basics like Sir Isaac Newton cutting a small hole for the small cat and a large hole for the bigger one.
When is a human really dead? When his heart is no longer pumping, when he is no longer breathing spontaneously, when he no longer shows reflexes mediated through the cranial nerves, when his EEG (not ECG) is flat and…Within about 3-5 minutes the brain cells die out. Then the heart dies followed by liver, the kidneys and the Pancreas. Muscle cells live for a few hours. Skin survives at least 12 hours while bones and tendons can survive up to 3 days. At 4 degree Celsius stem cells have been found to be alive at 17 days!
Hence a corpse can theoretically harbour live virus for at least 3 days in its bones and can contaminate water sources close by. SARS Cov-2 virus was originally known as the novel corona virus. This is because the virus was new and not a great deal was known about its morphology and behavior. Even as at present the amount we know about it is less than what we do not know. As such it is of utmost importance to act with caution and if an adverse event by the virus is suspected but not yet proven our action should be as if the virus is indeed capable of producing the said adverse effect for certain and take all precautionary measures against it.
If you remember, Tedros, the WHO chief waited till the wicked folk was at our own door instead of acting when it was a few doors away. Had he acted when there was some evidence but not proven that human to human transmission was taking place instead of waiting for 100% proof the Wuhan epidemic could have been stopped from transforming in to a pandemic.
Please analyze the text in the snapshot of the video depicted above. The man said “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human to human transmission” What does this mean? There has been some evidence of it at least by the 14th Jan 2020. (Actually by 31st Dec 2019) In the context of a deadly illness of this nature one does not need clear evidence to act. Some evidence is all that is required and he should have advised the relevant authorities to impose a travel ban in to and out of China by the 31st December last year. Had he done so this Chinese epidemic could have been stopped on its tracks in China itself and the pandemic could have been avoided.
I hope I have given enough facts to embolden the powers that be for them to be able to make whatever decision that may be deemed appropriate on this all important matter. Let that uncommon thing called common sense prevail.