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Monday, 07 June 2021 15:52

06.06.2021 - Need for an Ethical Covid Containment Policy

Despite entering into the 3rd week of lockdown the infection and death rates in the country due to the Covid virus continue to remain high which has led to the extension of the lockdown. One of the significant tragedies of this pandemic which has been noted by professional medical associations is the disproportionate number of elderly persons who have died as a result of Covid infection. Over 73 percent of the deaths in Sri Lanka are of persons who are above 60 years of age according to the Sri Lanka Medical Council, while they are only 18 percent of the country’s population. This is on account of the failure to give priority in providing vaccination to the elderly population.

Countries that have given priority to safeguarding life above all other values have given priority in vaccinations to those over the age of 60. Vaccination began around January 29, 2021 and if we had vaccinated the above 60s as a policy we may have saved the lives of at least half of those who died between then and now. The Sri Lanka Medical Council has stated that “there is clear and compelling evidence to support prioritisation of vaccination of older adults more than 60 years, followed by people with comorbidities in the age group of 30 – 60 years. However, there is no appreciable benefit in vaccinating people with the highest mobility in so-called hotspots, as is currently carried out in the Sri Lankan setting.”

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has been following a policy of vaccinating other groups, including those between the ages of 30 and 60 presumably on the grounds that these are the economically productive age groups. We endorse President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s view that those over 60 should be considered as a priority category. It is yet to be seen at the level of implementation. We call on the government to provide vaccines to those over 60 as a priority in practice when it comes to giving out available vaccines. This needs to take place immediately in all districts, and not in those specially singled out for vaccination of the general population.

Another cause for grievance has been the prioritization of certain parts of the country for the provision of the limited stocks of vaccine and medical equipment to contain the spread of the virus. The neglect of other districts has created disaffection in people in those districts. For instance, the Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts have not been included in recent distribution of vaccines. Mannar health authorities have requested for 3500 vaccines for urgent needs which have not yet been fulfilled. We call on the government to reconsider its strategy of Covid containment while making every effort to obtain more vaccines from all sources, including through diplomatic means.

Governing Council
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.