He made the statement when asked whether there was a close connection between the anti-government protests and the rise in COVID-19 cases. Prof. Vitharana said that there had not been a scientific study on the matter, but he said he believed that the protests had little impact on the pandemic after analysing the data at hand and the geographical distribution of protests.
“I think that this is not the time to do and say things that divide people more. When Pavithra Wanniarachchi was the Minister of Health, I proposed that we establish a mechanism with the participation of party leaders. This would have allowed us to get their opinions and expand the anti-COVID initiatives. I think everyone knows what happened to my proposal. However, we need to have a COVID committee in each village. These committees must have capable people from all parties to monitor the COVID-19 guidelines and take action.”
Prof. Vitharana said that despite constant warnings a large number of people were taking the pandemic lightly. People went about their activities without much concern for COVID-19 guidelines and policemen do not act against those individuals, he said.
“Those responsible must ensure that people follow health guidelines. Now we have imposed a lockdown but there are still many people on roads. Why did we impose a lockdown? We did it to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from meeting others. Given the rapid spread of the virus, the government had to go for a lockdown. My proposal was for 14 days but even 10 days is enough if we do this right. Requesting people to behave has not worked,” he said.
The SLPP MP said that garment factories and other establishments could follow COVID-19 guidelines while maintaining optimal productivity. Sri Lanka’s largest garment factory network had approached him and now they had rearranged their factory floors to match the guidelines, he said.
Prof. Vitharana said some understood that the unchecked spread of the virus among the workforce was bad for business and they had taken necessary steps.
“Some employers don’t seem to care about what happens to their workers. These are people who can’t think of sustainability. The government has to make them understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.