Success in China has no room for complacency


It has been a relief to hear there is a rapid decline of COVID-19 in Wuhan city, China, thanks to all involved. This might create a false sense of security not only in China, but also in other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka.

When one considers the geography of China, the risk of the spread of COVID -19 in other provinces there is still significant and should not be underestimated. It is very much the case due to the sheer extent of landmass in China.

As it is a new virus, its true behaviour is still to be known and studied.

Hence, the initial euphoria on good news should be grasped with great sense of caution.

Hence, China must be mindful of the fact that complacency can well be its biggest enemy. The lesson that Sri Lanka ought to learn is: not to be carried away and relaxed with regard to our strategies, even if there is an improvement in the situation in Sri Lanka. We are up against an invisible, yet very powerful, enemy.

An epidemic due to an infection (particularly of virus origin) of another country cannot or should not be considered as a problem of that particular country only in the context of current globalization.

In the past, over a century or two ago, it took several weeks or months or even years for an epidemic to spread and become a pandemic. This was due to the mode of transport of travellers. At the time, it was by sea (by ships) or land which took months to reach their destination.

However, with the advancement of technology (air routes, rapid rains, etc.), the time taken to reach the destination has gradually become shorter. Now it is less than 24 hours to travel across the globe. Hence, the spread of an infection is likely to be super-fast, beating all human preventive strategies.

As a result, there can be an exponential rise in affected individuals in a very short period of time.

It is sad to note that many people have still not truly understood the serious nature of the problem. A decisive action with command is absolutely essential. Police curfew is too soft; instead, a serious and strict curfew has to be imposed should the people be irresponsible in their behaviour. Unfortunately, there is no other way of convincing people.

Travelling between cities or districts has to be halted unless there is an exceptional cause (transport of food and other essential items). In case the epidemic spreads, the human cost is much greater than all others costs. Italy, being an advanced country, was far behind in decision making than Sri Lanka, and is facing an absolute human disaster in modern history. Hence, before any further delay, our human movements must be completely restricted.


Professor in Community Medicine

University of Peradeniya.


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