While the country’s health sector is pushing for more restrictions on the daily lives of people, citing the rising COVID cases, there is a widespread pushback building up from multiple sectors of society as small businesses are being pushed to the verge of collapse while people are losing daily income from their livelihoods.
Early signs of backlash against isolations emerged last week, when a large section of traders and people who earn a living through daily work in the Piliyandala area rose up against such restrictions, voicing their concerns through their parliamentary representative in the area, MP Gamini Lokuge, who is also the Cabinet Minister for Transport.
“We had no option but to take up this issue with our minister to show that a complete lockdown of the wider area will happen at the expense of the livelihoods of thousands of people who make their living from coming to the city every day. I am extremely appreciative of his timely and just intervention in averting a full-blown economic crisis,” said a leading businessman in the area on condition of anonymity.
While Lokuge did not oppose to isolating Grama Niladari divisions deemed as high risk, he asked the authorities to deliberate whether a full-scale isolation of the whole area, including the city limits, was actually warranted. And the authorities lifted the isolations the following day after reviewing the conditions.
There is a drumbeat of calls from all corners, led specially by trade union leaders, who want an imminent total lockdown of the country to arrest the virus.
Meanwhile, another small business owner in the garment industry, who supplies to several large and small-scale clothing stores, said she hadn’t restarted her operations since she closed for New Year holidays on April 12, due to lack of orders and workers.
“It’s in fact sickening to see and hear how these people call for more restrictions, which are nearly killing us, the small businesses, which they call the life blood of the economy and the livelihoods of many more people,” said Imashi Rathnasekara, who employs women workers in her facility.
Last week, the government was forced to reopen the Dambulla Economic Centre, after a week since its closure, as it sparked farmer grievances into massive proportions and threatened a vegetable shortage in the country. Apart from the economic ramifications, the current set of restrictions and the way they are implemented have also raised serious questions of the government’s overreach over the private lives of the citizens, as the police and health authorities have started to decide how the people should live their lives and what and what not to do.