by SUMINDA S S DHARMASENA
With Covid-19 on the rise again, the people, businesses and government should take necessary steps to curtail it. Everyone involved should assess the risks of contagion and put measures to mitigate the risk. In addition, steps should be taken to traceability of an infected person to an establishment. Also, the public should be empowered to take additional preventative steps, based on the risk.
The government has put in place a legal policy framework to manage the pandemic situation. This merits some improvements. Here are policies and procedures to follow given the threat level. The epidemic threat level advisory for infectious diseases could have the following levels:
Severe (red) – severe risk – full curfew – spread to multiple areas, 5+ level separation from patient zero
High (orange) – high risk – travel is permitted only for essential services, partial curfew hours – on detecting multiple clusters or significant spread, with 3 to 4 level separation from patient zero
Elevated (yellow) – significant risk – in addition, travel is restricted using passes to go to work, restricted travel by ID number for shopping – on detecting 1st cluster with 1 to 2 levels of separation from patient zero
Guarded (blue) – general risk – advise public to curtail travel, disinfection at all establishments, visitor tracking, checking for symptoms of visitors – initially a person is detected in the country
Low (green) – low risk – areas with no threat of infectious disease, hence normal life can continue – no disease in the country or internationally
Each area, district, province should get a threat assessment and the public should be made aware of it through media.
The threat levels and government, organizational and civil procedures should be later codified systematically into pandemic and epidemic preventions laws, taking into account how diseases spread. This should include procedures for airborne, waterborne, contact-based, social and other methods for further disease prevention.
Procedures to Follow
All private and publishing establishments should follow preventive and traceability best practices based on the regional threat assessment.
The best practices that each establishment can follow:
Floors should be moped regularly
All establishments should have a sanitizing footbath mat
All large establishments where people frequent like shopping malls, supermarkets, offices, ministries should have sanitization chamber fitted at the entrance
The door handles should be sanitised after each touch
Pens in supermarkets, banks should be sanitised after each touch
If the establishment has A/Cs or other ventilation systems, disinfectants should be continuously added to the ventilation system so this does not become the means of spreading disease
In shops and stores, customers should be advised to touch only what they intended to buy, and any products which are touched needs to be disinfected. In the case of food products, these should only be handled by staff. For packaged items in shelves, they should be regularly sprayed with non-toxic sanitisers like pure alcohol.
Shopping carts and baskets should be disinfected after each use
Countertops should be disinfected after each customer
Seats should be disinfected after each use in public places and transport
All public vehicles should be fitted with disinfectant misters/foggers at the doors. Supermarkets should ideally be fitted in the aisles with motion sensors or periodic spraying. Similarly for public building and enclosed areas
All taps and disinfectant dispensers at entrances should be by foot or motion or proximity detection
1m markers should be placed for each queue. The separation between queues should be 1 metre also
For sitting arrangements, there should be an empty with an unmovable dummy box placed on it to promote social distancing. Extra chairs should not be removed. This prevents people from moving the chairs closer to each other, in social gatherings like weddings
Seating areas should be fully partitioned to avoid respiratory droplets spreading and accidental contact. This should extend under the tables as well so there is no accidental contact when once stretchers one’s legs
Retail shops should be encouraged to move to contactless payments and banks replace current cards with contactless cards
Though there is no strong evidence, cash can be a source of infections spreading, hence before recirculation, they should be disinfected using UV lamps
Validations and Calibration – in order to prevent a false sense of safety and the following procedure
All disinfectants should be quality checked to see if they are not adulterated and effective
All equipment should be calibrated to see if they are functioning properly
The recording of visitors should be done by a designated person, otherwise, the logbook and pen could be a source of spreading infections
Supermarkets and shops with loyalty programmes can easily use this to track visitors. Therefore, no need to record this in books. But each time one enters and exists one should swipe the card. Shops can work to upgrade the cards or issue new replacement cards to do the tracking
The testing should be made systematic balancing cost and coverage. Employees and building owners should compile a list of people per floor in the building. At least one person on each floor should be tested per day. Similarly for shops, where each individual gets tested at least once every other month
People taking the same route using public transport should be similarly tested every other month in a systematic way
In order to be extra vigilant and take additional precautions, the public should be given information on which street and area patient lives and
what areas each patient has frequented
The government and media should publicise the best practices followed by various establishments to curtail the current pandemic
Any violation of safety precautions and actions taken should be publicised also
The government should be swift to take action against any violations of public safety standards
Lack of proper disinfection
Lack of enforcement of social distancing
Lack of contact-free washing facilities
Lack of proper responsible record keeping
Lack of proper calibration checking
The government should expand field offices in the Public Health Inspectors services with latest technologies body cams and ensure most establishments are frequently checked
Checks and raids by Public Health Inspectors should become and common occurrence in schools, government departments, offices and shops
This should continue even after the pandemic situation ends as public safety has no compromise
Lack of public safety should be made a criminal offence
In cases of infectious people visiting a certain place, cellular data can be used to find who else was there at the same time to curtain spreading
Organisations should be at the forefront of trying to curtail the situation and make aware of the innovative procedures they are follow as a reassurance to workers and the public. Any organisation not following the procedures they purported to follow should be made liable.
All institution should have checkers to visit branch offices and premises to see that the whole organisation adheres to public health standards
Make it a civil fundamental right to be in a safe environment at work or as a customer. The public should be given the right to take action if any establishment does not provide a safe environment. Implementation of this right should be well publicised. This would keep more businesses and establishments in check.
Also if anybody gets sick by visiting any establishment which does not provide a safe environment, it should be made liable for damages
These cases should be swiftly dealt with and settles through an appropriate establishment and tribunals bypassing the court system
Having the proper procedures implemented along with the legal framework would to a certain extent help combat the current Covid situation. The government policy at this crucial juncture will decide the fate of the country and its people.
Amend Cabinet decision on new Rajagiriya – Nawala Canal bridge
The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 09.11.2020 granted approval for the construction of a new bridge across the Rajagiriya-Nawala Canal (Kolonnawa Canal), connecting Angampitiya Road, at Ethul kotte, and School Lane, at Nawala.
As a resident of Nawala, I would like to make two proposals in this regard. One is to reconsider the suitability of the proposed link between School Lane and Angampitiya Road to connect Nawala with Ethul Kotte. The second is to make an additional link between Narahenpita and Nawala, by constructing a new bridge across the Kinda Canal, which flows past the Wall-Tile Showroom on the Nawala-Narahenpita Road and the McDonald’s outlet at Rajagiriya. This will provide a direct access from Narahenpita to Ethul Kotte, and at the same time avoiding congestion on Kirimandala Mawatha and Parliament Road, during peak hours.
The decision to construct a bridge, linking Nawala and Ethul Kotte, is commendable, but the selection of the site for the bridge needs reconsideration. Once Ethul Kotte is linked with Nawala, through Angampitiya Road, and School Lane, one would expect a substantial increase in the volume of traffic on these two roads. Located on School Lane is the Janadhipathi Balika Vidyalaya, a popular girls’ school in the area. Even at present, the area around School Lane has heavy traffic comprising mostly school vans and other vehicles bringing children to and from this school, in the mornings and afternoons. Linking School Lane with Ethul Kotte will make this traffic situation worse, causing congestion.
A better option is to connect Ethul Kotte with Nawala, by constructing a bridge, linking New Jayaweera Mawatha in Ethul Kotte, with Koswatta Road, in Nawala. A by-lane, branching off from the Koswatta Road leading up to the canal, at an appropriate location, could be used for this purpose. On this link, only a short distance of roadway about 250 m, needs to be developed, whereas the School Lane extension needs development of at least 700 m of roadway. Earlier, motorists used Koswatta Road as a shortcut to access Parliament Road. Now, turning right, at the Parliament Road junction, is not permitted, and hence, there isn’t much traffic on this road at present.
One advantage of extending the Koswatta Road, to Ethul Kotte is that it could be linked in the other direction, with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, on the Narahenpita side, providing a direct route for motorists coming along Thimbirigasyaya Road to go to Ethul Kotte. With this link, it will be possible for traffic to avoid both Parliament Road and Chandra de Silva Mawatha, Nugegoda, the only two access roads to Kotte, from Colombo, available at present.
To complete this access, it is necessary to construct a bridge across Kinda Canal, linking Galpotta Road with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, after extending both roadways up to the canal. This area is still not developed, except for a reservation made for a playground on the Nawala side. A new roadway, which is only about half a km distance, is necessary, and this could be built without any problem linking these two roadways. Galpotta Road could be linked with Koswatta Road via Ratanajothi Mawatha, which crosses the Rajagiriya–Nawala Road, at Koswatta Junction.
The construction of these two new bridges, one across Kolonnawa Canal and the other across Kinda Canal, will provide a direct route from Colombo to Ethul Kotte, via Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, Galpotta Road, Koswatta Road and New Jayaweera Mawatha. This link will reduce congestion, at present experienced on Kirimandala Road and Parliament Road.
Dr JANAKA RATNASIRI
A tribute to my mother-in-law
My mother-in-law, Mandrani Gunasekera, nee Malwatta, passed away peacefully in our home a few weeks ago. The funeral arrangements were complicated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation, and the resultant weekend curfew in Colombo.
It is a privilege for me to reflect on my mother-in-law and her role in our lives. Vocationally, she was a practitioner of one of the noblest professions on earth, that of being a teacher, with the responsibility of educating and molding young lives. First in the public-school system, then overseas, and finally in Colombo’s leading international schools. As someone who topped her batch at the Peradeniya University, teaching was an unusual and perhaps unglamourous choice, but it demonstrated her commitment to the service of others.
In private life, she, was a mother to two daughters, one of whom is my wife, and their strength of character are a tribute to her. Her four grandchildren, including my two sons, are, I am sure, left in no doubt, that their mothers were raised in the home of a teacher, with a strong commitment to both education and discipline. I saw first-hand, that my mum-in- law, was an enabler and facilitator, guiding and molding her family. Her eldest grand-daughter, Thisuni Welihinde’s wedding late last year, was a milestone for her and we were never sure who was more excited, the bride or her grandmother.
To me, she was always “Ammi” and having lost my own mother when I was very young, I was determined to treat my wife’s mother, as I would my own. After my father- in- law’s death, a decade ago, it was a joy to care for my mother-in- law, in our home. Ammi was retired and lived a life of leisure. Which was a good counter balance to our own lives, which always seemed to be so hectic and rushed. I also learned from my mother -in-law, that being effective did not come from being prominent.
Ammi was also regular at Church, every Sunday, and was also an active member of a mid-week ladies Bible study, and prayer group, who were also her group of friends. They always ended their meetings, with brunch if not lunch. It was special joy that we were able to celebrate her 80th birthday with a “surprise party” at home, with her friends, about six weeks before her passing.
Ammi enjoyed the simple joys of life, and of our home, whether it was meal times, the constant chatter and boisterous behaviour of her two teenage grandsons, our weekend activities or family vacations to most of which she accompanied us. She was also an avid rugby fan, especially of Royal College rugby, since her brother had captained Royal and now her grandson was playing. In fact, she used to attend many matches and the 75th Bradby encounter last year, held in the shadow of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, was her last, to witness her brother honoured on the field with other past captains and her grandson take the field, as a junior player.
This strange Covid-19 pandemic year, and its unprecedented lockdown ,enabled us to spend lots of time together, as family. Our lockdown daily routine, which included lots of sleep and rest, was centered on the daily family lunch, either preceded, or followed by family prayer. Ammi became the most committed and enthusiastic participant in our family mid-day gatherings. It was a great blessing, in disguise, that enabled us to spend the last few months, with noting much else to do, but enjoy each other’s company. While we miss her, we have the hope that she is with our Lord Jesus Christ. Her favourite Bible scripture in Psalm 91, states “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty …. and with long life I will satisfy him and show him, My salvation”.
By Harim Peiris
The Benefits of Homeschooling
COVID-19 has changed our normal activities. What we were used to doing in 2019, is no longer a routine in 2020. In the midst of this pandemic the schools were closed down, and the decision to reopen schools by the Sri Lankan government and the trade unions speaking against it, made me ponder on an alternative.
Education in developing countries have often been a sensitive topic, Parents would leave no stone unturned to put their child to a ‘Big School’. How many of the classrooms in ‘Big Schools’ are capable of making seating arrangements by keeping a distance of one meter in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations?
Online Teaching has been introduced as an alternative, but isn’t there something better than that?
This would be the best time to introduce Homeschooling.
Homeschooling is where parents and guardians teach and groom their children. There are many parents capable of handling children and providing a comfortable atmosphere at home for a child to grow up and learn; there are parents who are skilled in particular trades and crafts, and teaching these to their children at a younger age gives the child an opportunity to be a skilled individual.
Several decades back the role of a Governess played an important role in upbringing children in Sri Lankan households. Many would have read about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind student who went on to be a graduate; she was groomed and taught by her governess Anne Sullivan, who taught her at home, this is a successful example of Homeschooling.
It is an arrogant attitude to scoff that parents groom their children into good citizens without sending them to school. Inferior Schooling and Teaching Methods have been a bane to a child’s psychology and mentally handicapping the confidence of a child. The truth is, schools no longer groom students, they have become Examination Centres, that judge the performance of their students through results.
It will be interesting to look into some of the criticisms made by sceptics on homeschooling. One is the subject knowledge of the parents; let’s be honest, how many of us use Titration in Chemistry in our daily lives, do we even want to try it? How many of us want to know the Chronology of the Kings that ruled the Country, has it ever disturbed us?
On the other hand, Homeschooling does not mean that teachers would no longer be needed, the teacher can play a broader role as a governess or a trainer to fill in the subject gaps that the parents are unable to provide for their child.
Another criticism is that children will not learn to socialise without schools. Isn’t Covid-19 regulations discouraging socialising by asking us to avoid public gatherings and maintaining a distance of 1 meter, isn’t socialising with a bad friend as disastrous as a deadly disease?
It will be interesting to see how the trade unions are going to respond to this if homeschooling becomes successful, as they will be the worst affected. But they could always become good Governesses or Subject Experts and play a guiding role in the homeschooling venture. This country now needs more Florence Nightingales to treat the sick and more Anne Sullivans to groom the kids.
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