by SURESH PERERA
In the backdrop of the alarming spike in the dreaded Covid-19 contagion across the country, the move by the government to bring back to the fold Consultant Surgeon, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, was termed a “step in the right direction” by medical officials, as an overwhelmed health system struggles to tackle the raging pandemic.
Even at this late stage, it was a wise decision to seek the expertise of Dr. Jasinghe, widely credited for spearheading the thrust to control the transmission of the life-threatening virus when it first erupted in Sri Lanka in March this year, health officials said.
The move to accommodate the senior medical administrator in the government’s coronavirus preventive process was announced by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi in Parliament on Wednesday.
The exit of Dr. Jasinghe as Director-General of Health Services (DGHS), ostensibly on a “promotion” as Secretary to the Environment Ministry, drew heavy flak, with questions being raised over the irrelevancy of his medical knowledge and expertise in an alien institution, particularly at a time the country was facing the worst health emergency in its history.
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 cluster in Minuwangoda, it was simple logic that the virus – described as a new virulent strain with a bigger viral load – could spread to the Peliyagoda fish market situated within the same (Gampaha) district, health officials said.
With hundreds of consumers, wholesalers and retailers from Colombo and its suburbs thronging the complex, in addition to scores of lorries transporting loads of fish from many parts of the country calling over there on a daily basis, the Peliyagoda fish market was a virtual ticking time bomb waiting to explode, they asserted.
It was a sitting duck, they opined, but those in the health sector could not foresee the potential threat and warn the government that the highly contagious virus could have literally “come walking to the crowded Peliyagoda fish market” resulting in a country-wide spread with disastrous consequences.
“The country is now paying a heavy price for lack of foresight or rather common sense to adopt basic precautionary measures in a bid to avert a full-blown crisis leading to a devastating fallout”, they remarked.
Right people in the right places is the answer to serious efforts to stem the potent Covid-19 tide, the officials suggested, adding that tail-waggers should be kept at bay at least until the country overcomes the critical threat, which has disrupted lives and ruined the national economy.
Welcoming Dr. Jasinghe’s return to the Covid-19 control mechanism, they said the folly of edging out medical experts with proven track records has left the country tottering under the grave threat of a pandemic which has swept across many districts in the country.
The Gampaha district, where the second wave of the virus erupted with the Minuwangoda cluster, saw a relative dip in the number of infections over the past week, but the discovery of 111 asymptomatic patients on Wednesday has caused fresh concern over a possible resurgence, medical sources said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rosy Senanayake called for more PCR testing of people living in areas still under lockdown within Colombo municipal limits.
There’s no purpose in keeping these people confined if there are no tests done as the whole idea is to ensure they are not carriers of the virus, she told The Sunday Island.