Whosoever would have ever thought or even dreamt, when we wished each other a happy New Year on January 1 this year, that the Easter celebrations by Christians on April 12 and the National New Year celebrations by Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus on April 13 and 14 would be eclipsed or overshadowed by the hitherto little known virus, now come to be known as the new coronavirus or COVID-19, which had stealthily made its inroads into nearly every country in the world.
Come April, Sri Lankans mainly the Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus look forward to spending time with their immediate families, relatives and friends during the National New Year when all commercial activities in the country come to a standstill or a slowdown.
This year though, it was the battle against this unseen enemy and some of the measures adopted for this purpose such as the imposition of the curfew and the ban on people travelling from one district to another and the request to avoid social visits, which had brought the entire country to a standstill or a slowdown and had resulted in the celebrations being held on a subdued note with even the usual fire crackers that herald the movement of the Sun from the ‘House of Pisces’ to the ‘House of Aries’, having lost their ‘sound and fury’.
We, once again underscore the importance of eradicating this menace from our Motherland and for this reason we reiterate the vital importance of cooperating with the Healthcare Providers, the Security Forces and the Police because the sooner we return to normal, the better and healthier it would be for every Sri Lankan.
Be that as it may, it is also crucial not to lose sight of the fact that in the post-covid-19 period there would be no room for complacency but that it would be a time to rebuild Sri Lanka’s economy by way of resuscitating and resurrecting the various industries such as the garment industry the plantation and the fisheries sectors among others with even more commitment, even more dedication and even more determination by those in authority together with all segments of society irrespective of caste, creed, ethnicity or political affiliation. If we leave this task for later or for an ‘auspicious time’ we might as well expect this country and its citizens to be doomed.
Meanwhile, there is also an ongoing discourse on whether the use of the term, ‘social distancing’ has negative connotations and instead be replaced by emphasising the need for the more practically meaningful ‘physical distancing ‘.
At turbulent times such as this when being ‘confined to home’ is much more difficult to or different from ‘staying at home’, it is essential to maintain social ties, which could be carried out over the telephone, twitter, WhatsApp or by the use of one of the other communication platforms.
A recent Washington Post article says that though the US government, media organisations and meme creators have embraced the term “social distancing” as one of the measures to stem the coronavirus pandemic; Daniel Aldrich, a professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern University, is concerned that the term could be misleading and that its widespread usage could be counter-productive.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has come to the same conclusion and from last week had started using the term Aldrich prefers, ‘physical distancing.’ “We’re changing to say ‘physical distancing,’ and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said atone of its news briefings.
Aldrich says efforts taken to restrict the spread of the coronavirus should encourage the strengthening of social ties while maintaining physical distancing. “Social ties are a critical element in getting through disasters,” said Aldrich, who has researched how communities show resilience under major shocks, such as war, natural disasters and pandemics, focusing on the role of networks and cohesion and says the term ‘social distancing’ is misleading.
We conclude with the hope that the government, in the midst of its laudable efforts to mitigate this crisis, does not in any way marginalise or ignore the poor and the destitute, who are now more than ever before, struggling to survive without any means of sustenance.