No vaccine for ignorance and selfishness

Nowadays all virologists, epidemiologists and physicians tell the people over media day and night that the current Covid-19 virus variant which is Delta stays inside closed or air conditioned environments for a period of 16 hours and it remains inside an open room with fully opened doors and windows only for five minutes. But it is pathetic to see how the Sri Lankan society reacts to these warnings of consultants and health experts.

 Some state and private offices and other institutions have opened some of their doors and windows and some, not at all. Still they want to keep them closed as much as possible. Some supermarkets have opened one door while keeping the other door closed. On the other hand they cannot be blamed because some people are waiting to snatch their stuff without paying for them.

This is the common Sri Lankan culture that has existed since 1977. We cannot forget that there were some individuals who collected gold jewellery when LTTE bombs went off inside trains and people were screaming for help with broken arms and limbs. We cannot forget how some individuals snatched the gold bangles of a woman who was trying to save her life from the 2004 Tsunami. The number of such individuals has increased now and not decreased because of the rapid social destruction that is taking place in Sri Lanka with the introduction of a fully open economy in 1977. People want to collect money no matter what they do or who they kill or injure. Controlling Covid-19 without tough rules and regulations has become a huge challenge due to this situation and not because of anything else. There is no vaccine for ignorance and selfishness. 

 As a part of the same, air conditioned state and private buses (majority is private) run along all expressways and other roads with air conditioning on without any problem. No authority pays attention towards this fatal situation. One Delta positive individual who travels inside one of these buses for an hour or two can spread the disease all over the country in seconds because usually passengers who travel in these air conditioned private and state-owned long distance buses take their masks off after some time, especially when they fall asleep during the long trips. Many wear their mask below their nose. But conductors and drivers are blind and deaf towards this issue. Relevant authorities can easily prohibit switching on air conditioning inside passenger transport services but they never do it.   

 On the other hand Sri Lankan society acts in a very funny way towards air conditioned buses and environments such as offices. They act like as if their homes are fully air conditioned and they always live inside an air conditioned environment. Some others get on to buses in order to enjoy the comfort of the air conditioning and not to travel from one point to another. Some others come to offices in order to enjoy air conditioning and not to complete their duties and go home as soon as possible. They act like they have worked inside air conditioned offices since 2000 but air conditioning offices and other places started only after the late ’90s and early 2000. Until then they worked comfortably and happily.

 The most recent example found from Colombo South Teaching Hospital (Kalubowila Hospital) tells the whole story of social destruction. A few days ago almost all television channels showed how around six aged parents with no sickness whatsoever were abandoned inside the hospital by their children or guardians during the peak of this Covid-19 pandemic. This shows how inhuman some individuals are. None of those aged parents were Covid-19 positive. They were at their own homes or the homes of their children and relatives until last Thursday.

 If one such incident is reported we can say that the incident took place due to certain special circumstances faced by the children of the specific parent. But how did six of them end up at the same place in the same manner at the same time period? Can we expect such individuals to care about any others? Do they care about their relations or friends or co-workers? No. So how can we expect them to follow health guidelines in order to protect others?       

 We can say that such individuals are a minority in our society and the majority care for others or are not selfish, but the truth is far from that and we can very clearly see that when we observe our day-to-day life. It is strongly connected to culture and all other aspects. It is very clearly one reason for the difference of the behaviour between Sri Lankans, Indians, etc. and New Zealanders, Australians, etc. towards Covid-19. We do not like to accept this fact but we have to accept it now.

 When observing the behaviour of some individuals, we can very clearly say that Sri Lanka walks backwards and not forward no matter who governs the country. Some office workers do not wear masks inside their departments saying it is uncomfortable for them. They do not care about the safety of others who work in their departments. They believe they do not have the virus inside their bodies. Heads of Departments cannot change their attitudes but they can control their dangerous behaviour and ensure the safety of all the other workers.

 If they care only about comfort and not even about their own safety, can we expect them to care about the safety of others? Discipline, selflessness, kindness, etc., cannot be ‘installed’ in people. Such qualities should have been planted in them during their childhood by parents and then teachers. Once you make a clay pot, you cannot change its shape. The shape is forever. If some mothers throw their newborn infants to dustbins and sell their own daughters for money, can we expect anything good from them or their children? The issue is similar to cancer, no cure but only control is possible if detected late. 

If we analyse the 5,000 Covid-19 related deaths we can very clearly see certain things. The majority of those who died are over the age of 60 and not vaccinated. Then who is responsible for those deaths? It is their children or guardians. Maybe the children or the guardians did not take them for vaccination or encourage them to get the vaccination. Some poor aged parents still work and ‘look after’ their adult children because they are drug addicts, patients, disabled, etc. So vaccination is something that does not come into their minds. Even some rich and educated children just ignore vaccinating their aged parents. In addition they bring the virus home and give it to them. The aged parents look after their grandchildren and they receive the virus as their payment. 

When considering the other categories of the deceased Covid-19 patients we can very clearly see that they died purely due to their ignorance. By now all pregnant mothers exactly know that they are in danger. They know they need to get both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and stay away from gatherings. But they ignore all health guidelines in order to have fun and to please their relations, especially in-laws. There are around 200,000 pregnant mothers in Sri Lanka at any given time but only around 3,000 have been vaccinated so far. So how can their families hold the Government or any other party responsible for their deaths? Ordering them to report to work should not be done by the state and private sectors.  

According to scientific information communicated to the Sri Lankan people by all health experts, especially virologists and epidemiologists through the mass media innumerable times since March, last year, Covid-19 does not affect anyone if they follow simple health guidelines all the time. They very clearly stated hundreds of times what to do and what not to do. Most of the basic health guidelines are the same as they were in March last year. No one can prevent anyone from dying if he or she ignores instructions.

 When it comes to Covid-19 deaths in Sri Lanka, we all are responsible for any deaths of health staff members and members of the Armed Forces because they have died due to our ignorant and irresponsible behaviour. If anyone dies from Covid-19 after obtaining medical treatment from a hospital for some other ailment, it is a problem. If a pregnant mother or an aged employee with Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) dies after her boss asked her to come to work inside a congested bus and work inside an unsafe air conditioned office, it is a problem. If anyone dies after doing his or her official duties inside an unsafe and unhygienic air conditioned or tightly closed office or department, then it is a big problem because following all health guidelines does not protect him or her due to the ignorance and irresponsible behaviour of his or her boss and co-workers. Then things are beyond the control of innocent employees. 

The Government can only tell people to wear masks, keep a distance and wash hands but the Government cannot make each and every person do it. It is up to you and me to do it. The Government cannot keep the country closed for each and every variant of Covid-19 as there is no end to the mutation of the Covid-19 virus.

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