The coronavirus pandemic which broke out in China in December last year, has left in its wake over ten million affected people, and over 500,000 fatalities. It has forced countries the world over, to go into lockdown mode including quarantine measures.
People were confined to their homes. Health systems the world over were overwhelmed, business houses forced to go into temporary closure, millions lost their jobs, educational activities came to an abrupt halt, international trade came to a standstill and travel both within countries and internationally dried up. Today, despite the continuing spread of the virus, nations are forced to resume economic activities or face ruin, despite the fact that COVID-19 will be with us for a long
According to Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the US, there will be no vaccine to stop the spread of the virus within the next year-and-half. However most countries are loosening the self-imposed measures in an effort to restart business activities, especially tourism which is a large income earner.
The UK is among the countries which have commenced this process. Early on Saturday, the British government released a list of 73 quarantine-exempt countries; that is countries travellers from England can visit with no mandatory quarantine upon their return
In other words, the nations the UK government recognised as destinations posing the least danger of infecting its visiting citizens with the deadly COVID-19, and of not endangering returning Britons turning super-carriers of the dreaded disease. One must of course literally ‘tip one’s hat’ to the concern and exemplary precautions the UK government - the de facto head of the Commonwealth of Nations - is taking to ensure the safety of its citizens. However, back in the UK itself, the ‘list’ has raised a hornets nest and led to waves of criticism. London’s ‘Daily Mail’ described the list as being shambolic.
After weeks of delays, the UK government announced passengers arriving from a host of popular tourist destinations – including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Greece – would be among those exempt from quarantine rules that the UK had imposed to combat COVID-19.’ Included in the list of 73 are Barbados, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam.
The US, which is grappling with a series of severe COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as Portugal, China and Thailand are not included meaning quarantine exemptions do not apply. To borrow a phrase from ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the UK list gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’. A number of countries included in the list have banned visitors from Britain as for example Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and Curacao where a blanket ban on travellers from Britain is in place. Australia, Hong Kong and Austria, Taiwan, and Vietnam, insist visitors from Britain must quarantine 14 days after arrival in that country. These are but a few of the countries which insist on a quarantine on incoming visiting Brits or have banned visits altogether.
Sri Lanka which probably has the lowest number of virus contractions - 2,066, the lowest number of virus deaths - eleven - and presently NO internal spread, is not on the UK list of exempt countries. Curious..., step-motherly treatment or simply pique and jealousy at the fact that a little country - an ex colony - has been able, despite all its internal conflicts managed to control the spread of the virus and limit the death toll the virus has extracted all over the world.
As at date, the number of confirmed deaths due to coronavirus in the UK stood at 44,198 persons, while the number contracting the disease was 284,900! Does the British government feel Sri Lanka is really an unsafe destination for its countrymen and women? It is really puzzling, given the fact that the numbers of Lankans who fell victim to the virus are extremely low and the number of fatalities limited to eleven.
What then ails our past colonial ruler? Could it be the old colonials are put off by the country’s present ruling authorities? Or are their views tinged by the colour of our skin?
Our fervent hope is that this is not the case.