The future trajectory of COVID-19 that has swallowed the entire world is not clear yet. Only China has so far successfully contained the disease, but with imported cases still disturbing the serenity of its leaders of the country. All other so-called powerful countries are struggling to at least bring the rapid upsurge of new cases and deaths to a close. Countries such as Britain and Italy as guardians of capitalism had supported the sixty-year US-sponsored sanctions against Cuba but they now have been forced to seek medical assistance from the very same besieged island.
Sri Lanka, when compared to many other countries, has thus far managed to contain a sharp spike in the spread of the deadly virus, mainly for two reasons, firstly being able to control travel across the border very easily as the country is an island, and secondly being able to access the experience which the other worst-hit countries had gained by the time the virus attacked the first Sri Lankan man on March 11. This is not to underestimate the tremendous dedication and commitment by the doctors and other health workers as well as the armed forces and police personnel.
Yet, the future trajectory of the disease within the country is still remains a mystery. The best course of action for the government and the people is to prepare for the worst, as the enemy is invisible and its attack as well as the mode and magnitude of the attack is unpredictable.
Nevertheless, the curfew currently in force throughout the country of varied durations in various districts seems to have produced various positive as well as negative outcomes. This applies to other countries as well where partial or total lock-downs are put in place. The international media showed how the air pollution in main industrial countries has dived to levels of several decades back. International media showed the fascinating visuals of the leading tourist attractions in the world such as the Eifel Tower without being engulfed in dust and smog emitted by thousands of factories and millions of vehicles.
Environmental authorities reported days ago that the local situation has also improved remarkably, especially citing the air pollution in urban areas and the waterways such as the Kelani River. The curfew has helped the local government authorities to keep the roads under their purview clean. No garbage is seen strewn on roadsides these days. Those who usually bring their garbage in vehicles to litter the roadsides have been compelled to keep them in their premises until the garbage truck arrives.
An invaluable advantage that the killer virus has brought in its wake is that every concerned person is being trained to be extremely clean. Despite there being a danger of unconcerned people ignoring the health advisories many people are making a tremendous effort to maintain physical and environmental cleanliness. They compel their children too to adhere to the advice given regularly by health officials over the electronic media.
The curfew has a bearing on our other habits as well. Men and women now share the household chores as men have now enough time to dedicate to them. And a trend of home gardening is emerging among the middle-class as a hobby and a measure to spend time. Unlike the partly politically motivated recent wall painting trend, people are being encouraged in this by the powerful social media.
In a national point of view, the ‘work from home’ concept has contributed to the reduction of environmental pollution as well as unnecessary wastage of time in offices.
However, we cannot be blind to the plight of the poorest of the poor, who have been hard hit by the curfew and the government’s mechanisms to keep people confined to their houses do not seem to have sufficiently reached out to that segment of society.
On the other hand, there is a danger of the strata above them being addicted to the social media and internet during the curfew.
Notwithstanding these disadvantages, if we can continue with the advantages of the curfews and lock-downs, once they are lifted for good, hopefully with the early containment of COVID-19, someday we would be able to say that we have not totally lost, at least at family level.