COVID-19: An alternate perspective in uncharted waters

6 April 2020 11:20 am - 35     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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 It is said, “If you can stay positive in a negative situation, you Win.”

The population of the World is 7.6+Billion. Therein, the population of South & South East Asia is 2.5+Billion or nearly 33%.

South Asia - 8 Nations, 1.94+Billion people (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan & Sri Lanka).

South East Asia - 11 Nations, 0.66+Billion people (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste & Vietnam).

 

In end December 2019, the first case of what is now known as COVID-19 was reported in China. On 13 January, the first case outside of China was reported in Thailand, even before any cases were reported in Japan or South Korea. The first case in Sri Lanka was reported on 27 January 2020. The WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. Fear, trepidation, ignorance or who is fooling whom?

On 3 April 2020, globally the COVID-19 reported cases reached over 1,000,000 and the reported deaths were over 51,000. Comparatively, in all of South & South East Asia the total reported cases of COVID-19 is less than 18,000 (under 1.8% of the global figure) and less than 500 deaths (under 1% of the global figure). This is over 11 weeks since the first case in Thailand and over 9 weeks since the first case in Sri Lanka.

 

Government decisions and actions may well have contributed to keeping the local number of COVID-19 deaths to 4 (with under 160 cases reported). The restriction/suspension of International passenger travel for a month or as needed, closure of schools until Second Term/end April and no public events/gatherings permitted, are favourable.

A look at a few causes of death in Sri Lanka in 2019 (Population 21+Million)

Suicides - 3,500+

Road accidents - 3,000+

Falls & fires - 2,250+

Snake bites - 400+

Dengue fever - 80+

Usually, life goes on with little or no fuss.

 

As for COVID-19, the rapidly escalating numbers in the World have heightened the fear. Though in reality, not only in Sri Lanka but considering even all of South & South East Asia the COVID-19 reported deaths are less than 500 as of 3 April 2020. Eight (8) of the Nineteen (19) countries in the Region are reporting Zero (0) deaths, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Maldives, etc.. This begs the question - Is it as grave or real a threat to Sri Lanka? This should be looked at carefully, as it seems we are away from the path of the storm or death by COVID-19.

 

The figures presented/analysed, especially with regard to the COVID-19 reported deaths, may shed more light as to if this is as great a threat to Sri Lanka or not. It may help halt/quell the fear psychosis that seems to be playing out with excessive actions that may have greater repercussions to the economy and its people/country at large.

 

The decisions taken by the national leadership will have a profound impact as to how we come out of this with our sanity intact and with equitable opportunity. Alternatively, continued clampdown/curfew or extended hibernation/near-paralysis mode may place the nation in a perilous situation at cliff’s edge. When push comes to shove, the select/favoured may be bank rolled while many other businesses, including small & medium enterprises, may have to sell-out or succumb. Now an open invitation to bring in foreign funds without hindrance from the Government and protected under banking secrecy services, could well expose even the listed companies to predatory takeover owing to the prevailing and further anticipated depression in share prices. The fabric of Sri Lankan businesses and by extension the lives of the workers/people will be changed.

Though least prone/affected, Sri Lanka seem to be gripped in a fear psychosis as we are bombarded with months of alarming news/reported infections and deaths from China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, France, U.K., U.S.A., etc. and are kept primed over a purported impending COVID-19 disaster. It has brought the country to a near standstill. Some are cheering the extended excessive actions with unfounded trepidation or ignorance or a heady mix of both that feeds off each other?

Extended curfew will ensure an economic meltdown. Extreme measures by countries least prone/affected is detrimental. A large number of our breadwinners are daily wage earners, farmers or small entrepreneurs who desperately depend on the local economy being kept alive. The high suicide rates of the past are not comforting. A Rs.50 Billion rescue plan means very little to them.

Unlike in the U.S.A., U.K., E.U., China, etc. we do not record as high a number of deaths from the flu/influenza. U.S.A. alone has over 50,000 deaths annually. World-wide, 290,000 to 650,000 deaths in 2019.

Originating in the cold clime of Wuhan in end 2019, COVID-19 has had over 90% of the over 1,000,000 reported cases and over 95% of the over 51,000 reported deaths mainly spread along the East-West parallel/belt of nations spanning the 30° N & 60° N Latitudes (China, Japan, S. Korea, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Russia, E.U., Switzerland, U.K., U.S.A., etc.). Therefore, these countries must enlist/ensure robust action during this time, especially with the uncertainty of the added strain of COVID-19.

Our inbuilt immune system (patients recover, not cured) and long days of bright sunshine/high temperature, are the most active deterrents that protect us. As an island nation, we have the added benefit of being more insulated and together with the International travel/flight suspension in place, are even less susceptible. Vigilance, quarantining measures and needed medical care for the few serious cases should continue as done thus far by the Medical profession and health-care workers.

Given the COVID-19 reported deaths being 4 in Sri Lanka and less than 500 in the whole of South & South East Asia, it may be time for the Government think tank to consider not to re-impose/extend the curfew once it lapses in a few days (commenced with 3 days of public holidays and then from 20 March curfew was imposed and extended till 6 April).

 

The Government can get the country out of its slumber and permit working adults (age 18 - 55) to resume work without delay - made aware to wash hands regularly, wear a face mask to minimise potential spread via droplets and maintain social distancing. If living with elderly parents, minimise close contact (do wear a face mask) or self isolate.

 

The global population saw a net growth of over 60 Million in 2019. Over 120 Million births and over 60 Million deaths (of which over 15 Million were preventable cases).

Even if the worst predictions for the U.S.A., U.K., E.U., Iran, China, etc. regarding COVID-19 are true, it may double the number of pneumonia/flu like deaths that occur annually. Less than the over 1.25 Million deaths from road accidents in 2019. Even as we look away from the over 8 Million that died from hunger in 2019.

 

Although over 173 or 90% of the nation states have reported at least 1 case of COVID-19, fewer than 70 nations report over 6 deaths. Nevertheless, with all the hype & fear created, even countries far removed from the East-West belt of the COVID-19's path of destruction are panic stricken and a few are taking over the top/sledgehammer action. This adds to crippling the World. Extreme/Knee-jerk reaction by the least affected/prone countries will gravely flatten the curve of local economic activity, rather than that of COVID-19.

 

A bulk of the "Top 40" COVID-19 affected nations do have large populations of 50+Mil. Yes, they do wield tremendous economic & military power in the World. In spite of COVID-19 ravaging across the 30° N to 60° N East-West parallel/belt of nations, many of them have kept going with a majority of the businesses/economic activity as best possible, including the benchmark stock exchanges.

 

Sri Lanka, seems content to be near "freeze" mode or extended curfew (more grievous than lockdowns) for reasons best known to its leader/s. Are the extended curfews and economic clampdown more to arrest COVID-19 or is it to pacify the unfounded fears of the masses or is it for other real/perceived or hidden advantages - political or otherwise?

 

May sanity prevail sooner rather than later, as the anxiety/stresses faced by the people owing to the continued imposition of curfew and the fallout economic meltdown could exceed the deaths of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. Business closures and job losses in the tens of thousands will only be compounded if we continue with same. Let us not hang ourselves. Stop/quell the fear psychosis. Time to awake, rise and put the country back to work. Schools & Universities to reopen in end April. Then gradually we could open up to the World starting with travel to and from select neighbouring countries (with certain restrictions), possibly by May 2020.

 

With prudent/rational action, the country can be up and running in good order, then Sri Lanka may be in front of the preferred countries to visit once we are open to accept/welcome travellers from countries that have arrested COVID-19. There could be a "V shaped" rise in the global market for our export products if we are ready to solicit/capture and cater to those valuable orders. For all this, we must get the country working.

Hopefully this experience will humble us and also strengthen us in our resolve to overcome challenges.

Author’s note: This is an alternate perspective that could help quell the fear regarding COVID-19 and get the country working.

  Comments - 35

  • Angelo Pillay Monday, 06 April 2020 08:14 AM

    Great article! I don't think its an alternative perspective but in fact it is the truth and reality.

    Ashfaq Abdul Cader Monday, 06 April 2020 11:53 AM

    Fantastic❤️

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 03:18 PM

    Thank you.

    Nalin Wednesday, 08 April 2020 03:24 PM

    Thank you.

    Anusha seneviratna Monday, 06 April 2020 12:31 PM

    Good information hope the Government takes a decision on this srilanka will be in a major situation if this goes on

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 07:43 PM

    Thank you. Yes.

    Rozan Jiffry Monday, 06 April 2020 12:54 PM

    A good analysis Many points to ponder

    Anusha Seneviratne Monday, 06 April 2020 02:45 PM

    Great post excellent in this time of this pandemic hope the Government opens up and start looking into way of treating this and creating a future in this standstill

    Rene decarte Monday, 06 April 2020 04:10 PM

    One writes like this when overdosed with cocaine

    Anil Abey Monday, 06 April 2020 05:38 PM

    Besides economic, what are the non-covid health repercussion of a strict lockdown?

    Laurence Pushparajah Monday, 06 April 2020 06:30 PM

    Nice. Anticipated a political free recovery.

    Nimal Gunatilleke Tuesday, 07 April 2020 01:40 AM

    Thank You for a timely, important reminder that we must avoid losing our heads.

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 03:23 PM

    Thank you.

    Tilak Nissanga Tuesday, 07 April 2020 10:15 AM

    Great article. Timely reminder. Thanks very much.

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 07:46 PM

    Thank you.

    Hiran Cooray Tuesday, 07 April 2020 10:36 AM

    This is to me is the way forward. Hope and pray the decision makers will take this view into consideration soon Blessings

    Prof. Mahes Ladduwahetty Tuesday, 07 April 2020 02:14 PM

    Although avknowledged in the title as "unchartered waters", and by and large appreciative of Govt. efforts, some criticisms here seem aimed at nitpicking. The extension of curfew has aggravated those such as the author who compare and find.SL"s Stats on Spread and Death less alarming than those from Western democracies, and see no reason for the curfew to be still enforced, these critics do not seem to understand that the very reason for SL's diminished Spread of COVID-19 is the.observance of curtailment in travel and social gatherings. Besides, the general tendency among Lankans to gather for any excuse available would surely have led to wider spread of this vicious virus, had the curfew been more limited. We should be glad that the more populous and restless areas are still under curfew, and that the discipline it has brought has resultied in peace and order at a time that could have rieadily resulted in chaos. Although "umchartered", we have weathered the storm wel thus far.

    Druvinda Rand Tuesday, 07 April 2020 03:33 PM

    The article shoukd be translated to Sinhala and Tamil and be in the newspapers. It's essential that the majority get this view.

    Jayantha Rajapakse Tuesday, 07 April 2020 04:00 PM

    Would you have written the same if the number of cases in Sri Lanka was over 1,000 with over 100 deaths right now? If those needed urgent treatment for other diseases were dying because intensive care beds were not available? Most would be blaming the government for not taking more stringent measures. Economies can be rebuilt following hardship. Death cannot be reversed.

    Nalin Wednesday, 08 April 2020 04:58 PM

    Thank you. Let's address the current situation in a timely/prudent manner at this crucial time. Certainly, prevention is better than cure. Looks like many authorities in the World were slow to realise/act - suspend visa on arrival/int'l passenger travel to and from the COVID-19 affected nation/s until 2 full months had lapsed. During the first month or two with COVID-19 case numbers running to 100's

    Nalin Wednesday, 08 April 2020 05:04 PM

    Growing hunger/economic hardship could result in increased stress/anxiety that causes mental/physical complications that then compromise the immune system and drive more people to hospital. Some may result in death/suicide. Agree, death cannot be reversed.

    Hiran D Dias Tuesday, 07 April 2020 05:22 PM

    Very timely and well argued in the historical context of the current situation. If the Government's actions appear too drastic in hindsight, we have the good fortune to feel so as a result of what the Government has achieved through those timely interventions. Hindsight is always easier than foresight. Let us appreciate the Government leaders for the unpopular but courageous decisions they took. We must also remember that we need a tsunami like shock to wake us up from our apathy. The actions that the Government took have enabled us now to evaluate how to normalise the situation in the context of our own, regional and global situation which is evolving. Normalising must also return us to civilian rule.

    Colin Fernando Tuesday, 07 April 2020 06:29 PM

    Nalin Fernando's take on our problem is a benevolent one , but I fear it is a dangerous suggestion. Optimism is a great virtue, but if his expectations do not materialise, there will an unprecedented catastrophe around the corner for all of us. So it is best to follow the advice of our leaders who are in turn guided by experts well versed in epidemiology and medical science. We will unfortunately be forced to suffer hardship for a while, but if we are all generous and considerate towards each other, the sun will surely shine again.

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 07:48 PM

    Thank you. Noted.

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 07:53 PM

    Thank you. Yes, hope the authorities do consider.

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 08:06 PM

    Thank you. The analysis/article is based on the current/evolving context of COVID-19. Not only historical. Considering the local, regional

    Nalin Fernando Wednesday, 08 April 2020 10:48 PM

    Thank you.

    ishan fernando Thursday, 09 April 2020 06:53 AM

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    ishan Thursday, 09 April 2020 06:59 AM

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    Nalani Perera Thursday, 09 April 2020 08:33 AM

    Test 123

    Sampath Fernando Thursday, 09 April 2020 05:00 PM

    Very good article.

    Harshana Jayawardhana Thursday, 09 April 2020 05:11 PM

    Fear. One of the greatest tools to govern. I recall the movie PK. Great article. Business and political goals at the cost of national economy, as alway its been.

    Rila A. Hady Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:23 AM

    There are many ways to skin a cat, and the curfews , Lock downs, and social distancing mechanisms could have been phased out in an all embracing manner allowing masses to have their essentials on a daily basis -without panic buying; shop owners to engage in business activities under strict sanitary guidelines, offices to function on a skeleton service basis; etc. easing the untold sufferings of day today wage earners, street vendors,coolies,service providers,etc., through a cooperative consultation process - Let us not emulate the concept of " LEDA MARUNATH BADA SUDDAWUNANE"

    Mark fdo Sunday, 19 April 2020 09:27 PM

    Thank you for your up front views .QE will have to oil all the joints of our workers to get them funtuoning at at least 75% after this long break? "I was considering closing but after speaking to you giving it a try is worth it after all 27 years thank you God bless "


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