It is surprising how the COVID-19 outbreak sent the entire world into a state of unnecessary panic, despite having previously experienced two world wars.
From the moment the first COVID-19 positive patient emerged from the City of Wuhan in China, a total of 9,393,862 people have tested positive for the Virus Worldwide while 480,587 individuals have succumbed to the COVID-19. Within the number of individuals infected, 5,079,050 people have fully recovered by now.
In Sri Lanka 1,998 individuals have contracted the virus and 1,562 have fully recovered while the death count has been limited to 11. The credit of limiting the number of deaths due to COVID-19 should go to the President, Government, health officials, security providers and the public.
It is obvious that if Navy personnel attached to the Welisara Navy Camp did not contract COVID-19, the number of COVID-19 patients would not have increased to such an extent.
Within the Welisara Navy Camp, 898 navy personnel contracted the virus, of which 790 personnel have thus far recovered. Currently, only 108 Navy personnel are receiving treatment in hospitals. It is fortunate that during the last five days, a lesser number of COVID-19 positive cases have been reported from within the Navy camp.
At present Sri Lanka remains among the top countries which has been able to efficiently control the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, currently a large number of local returnees from foreign countries have begun arriving in Sri Lanka. More than 1.6 million Sri Lankans are living in foreign countries. Of them about 40,000 Sri Lankans requested to return to the country, a few weeks after COVID-19 started to spread worldwide.
It should be noted that as of now, Sri Lanka has repatriated a considerable number of citizens who were overseas. But, 790 out of them have been infected with COVID-19 and this should be taken seriously by the authorities. It was also reported that several foreigners who entered the country recently have tested positive for COVID-19 as well.
The Government received many plaudits from the international community for measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. If the situation was not managed properly from the beginning, the country would have reached a catastrophic situation.
With the repatriation of Sri Lankans, a new problem has arisen now as many of them have tested positive to COVID-19. Religious leaders, intellectuals, medical officers, civil society activists and politicians are vigilant about this situation because there is a chance that the Virus could spread at community level.
What could Sri Lanka do if a community level COVID-19 spread occurs through the repatriated citizens? The country would be in chaos if that happens. When the very first patient in Wuhan had created several COVID-19 clusters by the time he was tested positive for the Virus.
The first COVID-19 patient reported in Sri Lanka was a Chinese lady. Fortunately, she had not created any cluster within the country. After a while a Sri Lankan tourist guide was tested positive for the virus and several people had been contracted the virus from him. After that, it became extremely difficult for the authorities to track the other COVID-19 clusters reported Island wide. One of the major reasons for that was disgraceful behaviour of some people. As a result of the behaviour of several drug addicts in Suduwella, JaEla, Navy personnel at Welisara Navy Camp became the victims of COVID-19.
Following that, the entire country had to face to the curfew for about three full months. There were many issues regarding food Distribution Island wide. If the Government did not intervene, the people could have been starved to death. The Government giving Rs.5000 for the needy people for two months should be highly appreciated.
But now the problem is bringing back Sri Lankan expatriates. It is true that they are our relatives and friends.
The country is gradually returning to normalcy. Sri Lankans just started breathing a sigh of relief after defeating the COVID-19 monster. In a context where factories are resuming operations and people are resuming their day-to-day activities, if the virus starts spreading again, everything would go down the drain.
Therefore, those who’re responsible should reconsider bringing back Sri Lankan expatriates. By now, it has turned into a social discourse. The government is contemplating on reopening schools soon. The country’s next generation is eagerly waiting for schools to reopen. This is also the very moment that decides the future of children who’ve been confined in homes for months. But this is the General Election.
If COVID-19 starts spreading in the country again through those who’re coming back from abroad, that would be the beginning of a bigger disaster. Therefore, reconsidering the decision taken to bring back Sri Lankan expatriates is extremely important.
Our relatives and friends who are waiting to come back to Sri Lanka should think about the motherland in a responsible manner. This is our country. This is where we were born. This is the land where our forefathers lived. This is the land where our future generation is going to live. Therefore, we, as Sri Lankans, should first and foremost think about our country, and the future of our children. It is our understanding that Sri Lankan expatriates should take a decision as to whether they want to come back to Sri Lanka with the risk of COVID-19 and thereby put the country in danger.