22 October, 2020

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Lockdown & Curfew Is Not The Way To Go

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

“180 from Welisara Camp test positive for COVID-19 so far” screamed an online newspaper on Monday. Tight living facilities in barracks and cantonments, similar to a lockdown in civilian tenement gardens and blocks of flats, have spread the infection. The numbers will continue to rise so long as people are not allowed to walk around, get fresh air and feel psychologically depressed which is just what the clampdown and the curfew are doing. The President is under the thumb of the GMOA and other kill-joy ninnies. On Apr 27, Colombo-Page also reported that a police DIG admitted that 40,000 people had been arrested so far for curfew violations and 10,000 vehicles taken into custody. This means people have begun to honour the curfew more in the breach than in the observance, a clear sign of lockdown exhaustion and curfew exasperation. It seems the President and his decision makers will remain immune to public irritation until there is an outburst somewhere and when that happens all the blame will be put by the authorities and the media on the people with little consideration of whether the right preventive measures were in use in the first place.

I am certainly no expert but there is a huge amount of information from the world’s top experts out there on the web for anyone interested to learn from. The big sticker item among experts these days is “flattening of the curve”; that if you strive for slower transmission and you build up slowly build aim at for lower peak. The x-axis in flattening the curve illustrations on the web is number of days since the first case. If you get your protective measures right within about 30 days it is possible to reach a plateau where the daily increase is small and then begins to fall. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan have crossed over into this happy nirvana. 

The evidence of the last week suggests that something is not right in Sri Lanka. A surge in quarantine camps, military cantonments and tenements and crowded neighbourhoods is not what people were looking forward to. Let’s hope these are atypical outliers. If the public decides that the authorities have made a cock-up they will refuse, first tacitly and then aggressively, to cooperate. Closing down all shops, including sillera kada and supermarkets, setting people’s right to walk on the street to depend on some digit in their ID card (was it like this in some fascist countries?) – what if your wife and you have different digits but that frisky girl next door and you have the same digit? – and shuttering up all liquor shops, are all profound blunders.

Source: Centre for Disease Control

Of course, there have to be controls and supervision. The measures frequently and aggressively recommended are (i) Personal: hygiene and safety measures, (ii) Community: social distancing and curbing large gatherings, (iii) Environmental: frequent cleaning of surfaces, spraying, (iv) State: targeted follow up of contacts. The approach behind this thinking is different from the blunderbuss approach adopted by Gota and his control corps.  At the same time the diametrically opposite point of view, the neo-liberal approach of hoping to build herd immunity, will also fail; the correct median between lockdown and neoliberalism is needed.

Thus far the government’s response has been characterised by a military mindset; Gota, the appointments he made in general and the key players at the moment in the COVID-19 strategy fall into that category. Bu we can’t go on with this this regimented mindset, a more flexible, experience based (South East Asia, NZ and Australia) and science-oriented approach has to replace it. Let’s keep hoping.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

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    Dear prof who wrote this.
    Sri Lanka is not even close to Australia or NZ, whether it’s the economy or the attitudes of people. Thus all the points you have made is null. Please rdo something to help the current situation without blabbering. Thanks

  • 2
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    If you are recommending theTaiwan path, we don’t want it.
    Its much safer to follow China’s path of strict lockdown.

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    The graphs in the figure ‘Flattening the Curve” look like normal distribution and may be valid if the infection was a one-time single source event.
    *
    The distribution may seem valid for Hubei (China), South Korea, France and Australia among a few others. The spread rate has almost been constant for weeks in the US, UK and some others.
    Sri Lanka seems to have had more than two pulses with the last being the most severe.
    *
    The bell shape is popular with statisticians but life offers far too many shapes that are not amenable to simplified models.

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    Flattening the curve will prolong the agony for a longer period, but the crisis may not be over.

    I thought lock-down is a universal strategy, which is followed by Gota as well

    Could Dr Kumar David clarify a little more on herd immunity and the discredited neoliberalism and how a midway strategy will solve all the problem for all the time?.

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    Agree with you that we need to balance the limited exposure from curfews with the other extreme of trying to achieve herd immunity. The infestation of Navy Camp in Welisara is a blessing in disguise, as we need an adequate number of people with Covid-19 antibodies to function in a Covid-19 ridden international economy.

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      LdeM
      Do you suggest that the government should conduct an extensive program to infect a large number and make a fast buck?
      Will also be a part of striking a balance?

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    The writer seems to forget the value of human life. Is all our suffering worthwhile if we can save one life? The answer to this question seems to characterize Sri Lanka’s approach to tackling the Corona virus pandemic. In contrast, experiences in other countries such as the US tell us something about their attitudes to humanity.

    • 0
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      Dear Yasalalaka,
      .
      You have set me off on my first comment on this article
      that I read a full day ago. Another must follow.
      .
      Like any living being, there is an instinct in me that says that I must preserve my life, come what may. It will always be there, but it is tempered by rationality.
      .
      You are back to what was discussed in relation to a two and a half hour T.V. programme that is embedded here:

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/covid-19-downright-disinformation-should-be-worse-than-rumour-mongering/
      .
      You’re probably very sincere in what you write, but ultimately you’re being sanctimonious. I listened to the entire video, but you need not. I’m giving you the link although I made one or two comments that I wish I hadn’t! We have to face the truth about ourselves.
      .
      We killed thousands in a bloody war, and now tell ourselves that they were only Tamils, not humans!
      .
      All living things must die. I am old. Let me not live timorously while I’m about it. That is how I want to live my life; I’m not saying that we should play with the lives of others.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 48 3111 444V) aka “Sinhala_Man”

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    Part I. Aye Prof! Lets keep hoping. Yes! Colombo was promised a breather on 27th of April and there was a police communique to that effect as well. But I had a promotion that at the last moment things will change and so it did, now May 4th. Will it end??? Yes you mentioned the GMOA and other Kill-Joy ninnies the root cause of this miserable management. But Why?? Do they say so for the love and safety of the people?? Only a very very few of those who took the Hippocrates sacred oath while on specialist consultation practice, cause a refund of their charge in consultation charges (of course they can’t waive the hospital charges) to whom in their judgement really cannot afford that consultation. In one specific case the learned consultant wrote in a specific note of the prescription requesting the charge of medication to his account. There are a few angels but a good amount are hypocrites. Could not they be Kill-Joy ninnies on a fee levied?? Can well be from the extent of unethical monetary transactions that take place in the country. Who wants it? Over to Part II.

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    Part II. I have stated before in previous comments, the delivery mechanism within Colombo charges a pretty high figure exceeding 100% of the tuk-tuk fare for the distances travelled. This is a clear sign that “Santhosam” need be paid for the services they render. They need be recognized as delivery people to get their curfew passes. This is one area where some people want the regime of curfew to continue and they would throw money to keep the status quo. Nevertheless the capacity of the IDH has exceeded. Judging from very few deaths and no Virus case in intensive care, what one needs is the services of Infectious Diseases Nursing Homes and not Infectious Diseases Hospitals where the current practices and regimens of the IDH must be continued in such Nursing Homes. The fumes the patients inhale, essentially oriental dietary supplements etc. and the regime of outdoor activity proved to be very effective care. What we need is not a curfew but a regime of minimal face to face interaction. Effective online shopping with reasonable delivery charges is one. System of prior appointments to visit shops and offices is another. There are many if you chose to think.

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