Nagitimu Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Government is like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand when it sees danger and hopes it goes away. Coronavirus will not go away. It must, without prevaricating, develop a sensible plan to live with coronavirus – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara 

  • Coronavirus is a mouse made into a monster; let’s make it a mouse again

One perspective of coronavirus is that it is another flu. It is a virus that is short-lived; 80% who get it recover in seven or eight days with no medication and can self-isolate at home, 20% have some sort of breathing difficulty; of every 100 who get CV, maybe two or three will die. That is why CV is a mouse.

The Government is like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand when it sees danger and hopes it goes away. Coronavirus will not go away. It must, without prevaricating, develop a sensible plan to live with coronavirus. Now they are dithering like old women. They announce a date for withdrawing the curfew, and getting life back to normal, then change their mind, and then they do that all over again. 

Whilst we wait anxiously for the Government’s ideas to get back to normality, two important things are happening. People are hugely inconvenienced and the economy is crumbling. Harassing the people will have serious political consequences for the Government. Destroying the economy goes beyond party politics and will concern everyone.

Searching for the solution

The task lies with them. They must discuss and decide on the best way forward to prevent the economy crumbling and to stop the harassment of people. One option for consideration is to remove all restrictions and let life get back to normal. This must include allowing tourists freely into the country to resuscitate tourism, our oil well. A consequence of this approach is that CV can enter the country from abroad and create new clusters here.

To ease logistics those with CV should isolate at home and only those with breathing problems be taken into hospital

The arithmetic of CV is tricky. Let us assume that 80% with CV recover in 10 days and of the balance 20 who have some breathing difficulty 18 recover in 20 days and two die. That’s the sort of numbers we get from information in the common domain.

One thousand new cases on any day one will whittle down to 200 by day 10. By day 20 it will be zero cases and 20 deaths. So we see that without doing anything dramatic the monster becomes a mouse and disappears in 20 days. To save the economy is 2% of deaths of people with CV a big worry?

We will all die. Death is not something strange and unknown. As is the custom we go for funerals and are told how the diseased died and so we know that death comes through many windows. Is the Government’s reluctance of allowing life to come back to normal driven by a fear of causing a few deaths? 

Last year road accidents caused 3,164 deaths. The good general knew every time he started an offensive that many lives of young Sri Lankans would be lost. That was the price to win a war. Why are we dithering about losing a few lives to save the economy of this country?

Perhaps we should take comfort from the words of the poet Donne:

“One short sleep, we awake eternally

And death shall be no more

Death thou shalt die” 

Until then people are harassed and the economy is crumbling

With the curfew, cannot see the children, cannot go to the pharmacy or supermarket until next week. Haunted by DIG Rohana’s daily picture show of people arrested and remanded for being on the road without a curfew pass, my wife will not let me walk to the bank or to the pharmacy as we don’t have a curfew pass. She rightly fears that I will die if arrested and remanded in some far off place without the medicines that keep me alive.

That drop of something that cheers is no longer available. The liquor shops have been closed. We are basically a rural society with over 70% living in rural areas. An integral part of rural life was having a drink of country liquor (I was first introduced to it when I worked as a research economist at the Coconut Research Institute in Lunuwila). It is now being thrown into a drain. Country liquor is a part of rural life like kavum, kokis and lunumiris. That’s the way it has been for over 100 years and will be again when jackboots go back to camp and civilian life resurfaces.

People who earn a daily living are very badly affected. They were not people on the fringe of poverty. Destroying their livelihood and giving them Rs. 5,000 is not a solution.

Cottage industry depends on daily sales. No sales for a few days and they are dead. A myriad SME businesses in diverse activities are now in desperate straits. Everybody connected with tourism is distraught. Many of the bigger firms are struggling.

Much has been written about how almost all sectors of the economy have been affected by the Government’s strategy of curfews and restrictions. It does not warrant repetition. What needs stressing is, if it goes on for much longer, it will cause a big dent in our GDP and employment. Our foreign reserves, always on the brink of a crisis, will become a frightening problem.

The problem must be addressed

For the reasons set out in this article and in many other articles, the ostrich must get its head out of the sand and address the problems caused by CV with alacrity.

The problem is that coronavirus has been made out to be a monster when it is actually a mouse. The solution is to make CV a mouse again. All those who got excited and made it a monster perhaps now realise that they were pursuing an imaginary game of their own and were so wrapped up in it that they probably believed it was a monster.

A sober reflection with a bit of humility should lead to mea culpa, mea culpa and to seek forgiveness from the nation for the damage they have done.