Civic Responsibility to the fore | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Civic Responsibility to the fore

26 April, 2020

The Government has rightly decided to relax the curfew in all areas from May 4 as continuing the daytime curfew for another month or so could result in an economic catastrophe. The economy has already suffered immensely as a result of the curfew and subsequent suspension of almost all economic and social activities. However, this was deemed essential to control the coronavirus pandemic. We have now seen over 400 infections and seven deaths, which is much better than developed countries such as the US, which just passed the grim 50,000 deaths mark.

But it would be naïve to think that the battle against the coronavirus is over. Far from it. Now is the time to be even more vigilant. This is why civic responsibility is even more and ever more important at this juncture. The Government has done its part, though not 100 percent perfect given the limited resources available, but now it is the turn of the public to heed the Government’s call and behave responsibly at all times, regardless of whether the curfew is in force or not. Parents have a special responsibility to apprise their children, even the young ones, about the dangers of the coronavirus and making sure that they follow health guidelines.

On Friday, DIG Ajith Rohana appealed to the public to do their duty and avoid unnecessary travel and maintain social distancing during the periods the curfew is lifted. In some areas the curfew has already been lifted and other areas the curfew is still in force. However, the SLTB and other private bus owners and drivers and conductors should adhere to the regulations and not carry over 50 percent of passengers. If the passengers are rushing into their buses and they feel it is over half their capacity, they should refuse to board them and make them take the next bus. This is their responsibility to society. Indeed, our sister newspaper the Daily News reported yesterday that drivers and conductors have been warned by Police in several areas against overloading.

These safety measures extend to the workplace too. Employers should only get the employees whose services are vital to attend office while wherever possible employees could work from home. “In every instance that the Police, PHI and health authorities visit your offices or factories, I urge the authorities of these offices to cooperate with them and adhere to their instructions,” he said.

However, the conditions put in place for the farmers and those engaged in agricultural activities remain the same. This was to ensure that the economic lifeblood of the country – agriculture – could be sustained without interruption even during the curfew period. This has by and large succeeded. With the Government actively stepping in to purchase vegetables, rice and fish on behalf of the consumers, the farmers and fishermen as well as the consumers benefited. Granted, there were certain deficiencies in last-mile distribution but no person had gone hungry. The Government and many other organisations looked after the daily wage earners as well. 

It is now up to the people to determine if they would follow the proper health advice and overcome the danger of the coronavirus threat or go back to a full blown threat of the coronavirus spreading. Hence, it is vital for the public to act responsibly and assist the authorities to overcome the coronavirus threat.

At this moment, we should again recall with gratitude the immense sacrifice made by Health, Security Forces and Police personnel in the battle against the coronavirus. They always faced the dangerous prospect of contracting the virus. That was a risk they knowingly and bravely took. Unlike in some other countries, they did not demand any special payments, PPE kits and other facilities. They did and are doing their duty. It was reported that some had not gone home in over a month.

It is in this context that we should all pray for the swift recovery of all the Naval personnel at Welisara Navy Camp who had contracted Covid-19. The Welisara Navy Base had detected 60 coronavirus cases so far.

Accordingly, the Navy said that nearly 4,000 naval personnel and their families (194 married quarters are located in the Welisara Naval Complex) have been isolated within the camp.

Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) Chief Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva said PCR testing for Naval personnel in the Welisara Naval Base has been expedited and the base has been completely locked down to prevent the spread of coronavirus further. More than 400 tests are done per day.

The Navy has since requested the public not to be unduly worried about this situation as the SLN has already taken immediate steps to contain the spread of coronavirus to any person or areas outside the camp.

It is indeed pertinent at this moment to provide whatever extra facilities and protective measures are needed by the heroes in the frontlines of the battle against the deadly COVID-19 pathogen considering the immense risks they face. They are our best hope against the more widespread infection scenario. The other hope is that the public will fully comply with the health authorities’ guidelines without disregarding them. This is essential if we are to put this contagion behind us and move ahead as a progressive nation. The President, the Prime Minister, the Government, health and Security Forces/Police personnel as well as essential services personnel can only do so much to protect us. The rest is up to us – the public. We must rise to that challenge.