As we make the shift from Christmas festivities to New Year celebrations, health and safety may not be at the top of our list of priorities, especially as we are coming to the end of a year that took a massive toll on our lifestyle, finances, and mental health.
Our fears about Covid-19 were largely overshadowed by our concerns and worries about the economic crisis this year, with many throwing caution to the wind and letting go of safety guidelines just months into 2022. Daily cases reported were as low as four on 27 December in Sri Lanka, and more and more people are seen without masks in public.
However, with the surge in cases in China, several countries are now urging the public to be cautious once again. In Japan, quantitative antigen testing is mandatory for arrivals from mainland China suspected of having Covid-19, with those who test positive required to undergo seven-day quarantine at a designated facility. The measures come before the New Year holidays, during which infections are expected to rise.
Last week, India also made it mandatory for travellers from China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Thailand to undergo a Covid-19 test, and Al-Jazeera states that the country has begun random testing on 2% of international passengers arriving at airports.
US officials on 27 December stated that they may impose new Covid-19 measures on travellers to the United States from China over concerns about the “lack of transparent data” coming from Beijing.
While concerns are rising across the globe, and preventive measures are being taken, the United Nations (UN) highlighted that a pandemic cannot be fought country by country, in their International Day of Epidemic Preparedness message.
On 27 December, the world commemorated International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, which was first held in 2020, called by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for, and partnership against epidemics. In his 2022 statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that it was three years ago that the virus that causes Covid-19 was first detected. “The costs have been catastrophic.”
Pointing out that millions of lives have been lost, hundreds of millions have fallen ill, economics shatters and health systems stretched, Guterres said: “Developing countries were often left to fend for themselves, shamefully denied the vaccines, tests or treatments they needed to protect their people.”
“As a global community, we must heed the harsh lessons of Covid-19, and make bold investments in pandemic preparedness, prevention and response,” he added, calling for equitable access to vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and life-saving technology for all countries.
“On this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I urge all countries to stand with our efforts to ensure the world is equipped and ready to take on the health challenges to come.”
While we talk about Covid-19, especially with the situation in China, it must also not be forgotten that 2022 presented us with other health challenges as well. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in July declared monkeypox, now known as “mpox”, a public health emergency of international concern.
“Primarily seen in central and west Africa in the past, more than 83,000 cases have been reported from 110 countries this year. Fortunately, the mortality rate has remained low, with 66 deaths,” WHO stated. The number of weekly reported cases of “mpox” has declined more than 90% since the peak, and WHO is hopeful that by next year, they can declare an end to this emergency if current trends continue.
WHO is looking at a milestone year, as it celebrates its 75th birthday in 2023. In Sri Lanka, one hopes that the public is mindful of the threats and risks the world continues to face and will remember to adhere to safety measures as we head into a new year.