The month of April is one of the most important months in the calender year for Sri Lankans, but concerns regarding the Coronavirus (COVID 19) have the potential to spoil the fun and also drive the nation into panic mode.
Already there is talk from the opposition parties about the regime trying to postpone the upcoming General Elections; also scheduled for April. And sadly, but slowly Sri Lanka, one of the least effected countries by this virus, is forced to put up its guard, with or without face masks.
Little issues like the unavailability of facemasks in most pharmacies adds to the growing concerns about the spread of the virus. At the time of writing Sri Lanka has recorded its first COVID 19 patient; a tourist guide. Despite this number being so negligible and the authorities still not heavily controlling the influx of tourists and local travellers to the island, what’s of concern is more centred around whether Sri Lanka’s medical experts and hospitals are geared to handle an outbreak of the virus if it occurs.
Right now Sri Lanka is agitating with one patient when Egypt, a country which recorded less than two dozen cases of the virus, is still rated as ‘a barely affected nation’.
What should be taken note of is that the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Travel Tourism Council (WTTC) have both conveyed that imposing of travel restrictions isn’t necessary. Meanwhile the WHO rates the COVID 19 as a Pandemic and not as an Epidemic; the former relates to the geographic spreading of a virus with the latter relates to a situation where the spreading of a virus goes out of control regardless of nations and borders.
Sri Lanka is a travel destination by necessity more than choice now. This is because the many construction sites in the country are employing Chinese and Indian workers. Travel experts opine that imposing extreme travel restrictions like closing borders, imposing travel blanket bans and implementing extreme travel policies haven’t produced the desired results during crisis health situations in the past. WTTC President/CEO Gloria Guevara has been quoted saying “Past experiences have shown that taking such extreme actions has been ineffective at best. We urge Governments to explore fact-based measures which don’t affect the vast majority of people and businesses for whom trevelling is essential”.
Whether Sri Lankans like it or not, the islanders have to deal with one striking fact; there will be a steady flow of Chinese nationals to this nation as much as they would go anywhere else in the world.
For the record the Sri Lankan authorities were planning to raise the number of tourist arrivals from China from 265,965 in 2018 to a figure close to half a million by 2020. China is also one of the largest source markets for Sri Lanka along with India and the UK.
Sri Lanka has to take note that several supply chains in the world have been effected because work at China’s manufacturing plants has been affected by this virus. And in the world scene without the steady stream of visitors from China, tourism in the European Union nations is facing a deficit of around Sterling pounds 1 billion.
At a time when we don’t know what the future holds for us with regard to the issues created by COVID 19, there is one little piece of literature penned 40 years ago by author Sylvia Browne in her novel titled ‘End of Days’ which might give us a glimmer of hope.
One chapter in the book states ‘In around 2020 a severe pneumonia like illness will spread through the globe attacking lungs and bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatment. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and disappear completely”. Lets keep our fingers crossed while medics work on dealing with COVID 19 !