The era of post-Covid 19; Adopting ‘the new-normalcy’ while keeping Covid-19 in check
By Dr Yashodhara Embogama
Once the lockdown policies related to Covid-19, the global pandemic got revised, experts around the world have started discussing about the necessity in adopting a new-normal life style while keeping the pandemic in check, in case a re-surge occurs at any time.
“As we talk now, nearly 5.25 million (0.07% of the global population) have reportedly fallen prey to COVID-19 making it second in magnitude for a pandemic only to the Spanish flu that victimized a third of the world’s population between 1918-1919. Of those diagnosed, nearly 350,000 have had an outcome of death, demonstrating a higher susceptibility among the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. You would notice a huge discrepancy in the manner the novel Coronavirus has afflicted different regions of the world to which the climatic, geopolitical factors have contributed in addition to the variations in the degree of malevolence between different strains of Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)” says Dr Chamath Fernando, Dr Chamath Fernando, Lecturer and Family Physician, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Coordinator, National Centre for Primary Care and Allergy Research, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, WHO Primary Health Care Young Leader.
The situation of Sri Lanka is praiseworthy
It is commendable that Sri Lankan authorities took measures to prevent the spread of the infection proactively that the caseload in the island did not overwhelm the relatively limited capacity of our health system. Especially the strong preventive health arm of Sri Lankan Primary Health Care system, in collaboration with armed forces strives to the change the behaviour of the population, now extending the testing beyond symptomatic individuals to otherwise healthy contacts and suspects.
“The uniqueness of the Sri Lankan approach to contain the pandemic also lies in the establishment of formalized quarantine centres and involvement of national intelligence personnel in the processes of contact-tracing and monitoring of the community compliance with healthcare instructions. Notwithstanding this notion, the socio-economic impact of the virus outweighs that of health”
Lifting and loosening the lockdown while keeping Covid 19 in check
Following the closure of many industries, impact on the economy of Sri Lanka was at least partly felt by each Lankan household. However, Sri Lankans promptly came up with innovations, ventures and ideas to reboot developmental aspects that include and are not limited to healthcare, security, education and a multitude of industries. Both state and private sector organizations would have to think afresh regarding their sustainability through the lens of the prevailing situation, and even contemplate on deviating from their routine luxurious services towards catering more basic needs of people.
“In a healthcare point of view, the current situation means that there would be more and more virtual consultations as opposed to the conventional face-to-face consultations. The patients would be triaged through telephone calls or an initial virtual meeting where a decision of arranging a face-to-face meeting will sparingly be made basing a risk stratification. Similarly, education from primary to tertiary levels would also have to be administered predominantly on online platforms ('distance education'). Despite the long-debated pros and cons in online patient care and education, these concepts have now embedded in the ‘new normalcy’ eventhough there is challenge to develop adequate infrastructure to ensure universal health and educational coverage on the island”.
Life is slowly but steadily moving towards the ‘New normalcy’
“The level of discipline exhibited by the majority of Sri Lankan citizens in adhering to the social distancing advice offered by the health authorities has prevented us from suffering a typically massive first wave of COVID-19 thus far. Continuing to hold your self responsible as a stakeholder in defeating this virus would be the first request I would have from every Sri Lankan” Dr Fernando emphasizes.
In fact, as we are dealing with a new enemy to humankind, it is acceptable that the knowledge around the virus and the disease keeps evolving. It is the citizens’ responsibility to refer only to accredited and reliable sources for the most up to date information. Furthermore, growing vegetables, cooking meals, eating healthy, spending quality time with family, ensuring adequate physical exertion while also paying extra attention to your less fortunate neighbour are some healthy lifestyle elements to adopt.
Covid 19 vaccine and treatment-a bridge not too far
According to Dr Fernando, invention of a new drug from the scratch would take up to 10-15 years, given the strict regulations inherent to allopathic medicine development. Therefore, the current focus is on trialling already licensed generic drugs aiming to assess their efficacy against the novel coronavirus. Some drugs with variable efficacy currently undergoing further evaluation include antivirals (Remdisivir-combination of lopinavir/ritonavi), antimalarial drugs (Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine) and even antibiotics, including Azithromycin.
“Similarly, a passive form of immunization with 'convalescent serum' (serum rich in antibodies directed against the virus extracted from previously infected individuals) is offered to more vulnerable people. Even though the development of a vaccine generally takes years of work, scientists of many countries working on this task assures public that a vaccine covering all virus strains responsible for the outbreak will be developed within a couple of months”
However, once developed, the cost of the vaccine would pose a further burden to developing nations like us in purchasing them.
Corona virus ‘may’ never go away, but we shall be living with it
The World Health Organization, in a recent statement, warned that 'coronavirus may never go away'. In other words, it implies that the level of preparedness, proactive advocacy, knowledge development, discipline, innovation and adaptation to shifting and drifting circumstances will together constitute the foundation of our nation’s future.
The longer individual citizens commit towards this collective responsibility; we could feel safe, sustainable and robust as a nation.