So Sri Lanka we are in lockdown …

My last post was just prior to the Presidential elections “The Devil is at the gate” I said.

Well, I did not vote for the President whom the masses finally favoured, but truth be told, at this particular point in time, I am beginning to think that there is much to say for autocracy and dictator-style governments.

It is early days yet, but the very qualities and policies that I decried – firm, ruthless military style rule, curtailment of personal freedom, suppression of dissent- seem to be effective weapons in containing the Covid 19 virus.

Measures taken when the first local case was confirmed on 11th March::

  • The Chief of Defence /Commander of the Army is put in charge of Covid 19 Task Force.
  • All flight arrivals stopped except for special flights bringing back citizens from China, South Korea and Italy. .
  • Three days public and bank holidays declared in the first week. We used the time to prepare. There was no run on supermarkets, no fights for toiletries or food though some did overstock on essential items.
  • Holidays immediately followed by island wide curfew: 3 days in rural areas and 4 days in Metropolitan and bigger districts.
  • Thereafter 6 hour window was given – for purchasing goods, banking etc
  • Unfortunately, the 6 hour window resulted in massive crowds pouring into stores and market places. BAD MOVE.
  • Infected case count rose.
  • Metropolitan areas where cases were highest declared high risk and put under indefinite curfew.
  • People breaking curfew are arrested and vehicles seized.
  • And finally – any area where an infection is discovered is IMMEDIATELY encircled by military personnel – almost like a high risk military zone. The Military moves in. The police join. The medics arrive and the Public Health Inspectors do house to house testing.

Watching on TV you are left in absolutely no doubt that war has been declared. The man who was in charge of Defence when we ended the 30 year civil war and is now in charge of the country is determined to win this war too.  With military precision, ‘Intelligence’  is immediately gathered on all with whom a confirmed case has come into contact and they are sent to one of the many quarantine centers or home quarantined under supervision. .

Of course there were a few blips at the beginning. A kind of late start.

Inter-school cricket matches which draw thousands of alumni from all over the world went ahead without cancellation. Nobody dared to stop tradition and nobody wanted to stay home and be safe – ie the men … or should I say “boys” cause this is something I can never understand. They coordinate family events and trips to Sri Lanka around the BIG MATCH – ie the game between two traditional rivals.  One such game has a tradition of 141 years and was played even during world war.  Covid war had not yet started.  the game went on despite a few protests.

And then the inevitable. One spectator was found to be Covid 19 positive 😱.  The blame game started. The horse had bolted. Could he be reined in?

Search launched to identify and isolate all those in the pavilion the patient had been in. News channels kept requesting all tbose who would have been exposed to self quarantine. This was just before the curfew.

Another blip.

We arranged special flights to bring back students and citizens from epi-centers South Korea and Italy. Around 1500 from these flights who came in before 15 March went back into their communities un- checked and un-tested and became the main source for the spread.

Again, major search operation and public notices identifying those arrivals and requesting them to report to the nearest police station for quarantine.

All international arrivals up to 15th March requested to notify there location to nearest police station.   All arrivals after that date are taken to one of the many quarantine centers established throughout the country.  2 weeks quarantine in semi luxury  entirely at government expense. 

Credit has to go where credit is due.. Government seems to be in control of the situation –  fingers crossed and prayers winging heavenward🙏🙏 – and Sri Lanka may even end up being the exemplar for the crisis.

I am locked in, but like many others in high risk zones have reason to count blessings of special arrangements made:

  • The nearby Supermarkets are delivering packs of essentials at greatly discounted prices.
  • The truck with coconuts – an essential ingredient in our cuisine -came by and our purchases were rolled into our garden. Social distancing🤗
  • Another truck brought cooking gas refills.
  • The bread van with his all too familiar ring tone alerts us he is on his daily rounds
  • Water dispenser refills delivered as usual..
  • Vegetable vendor came by but he did not have much.  We got a few more onions and potatoes. Others come by under special permission but we restrict contact.
  • Thankfully a friend in the business sent a very generous gift pack of fresh veggies.
  • Mobile banking came to our doorstep though I missed it.

The situation for us is totally well managed.

I realise this is not the situation throughout the country. Solutions have still to be found for distribution in rural and far flung areas.  Until then farmers are suffering heavy losses. The poor and daily paid are unable to purchase rations to stock up for the long haul. The allowances the government has granted will take a few more days to trickle down.  Quite a few more blips to be cleared but for now the curve is rather flat.

And unlike the rest of the world, Sri Lanka already had a dedicated infections diseases hospital  IDH  so all Covid 19 positive patients are sent there.  Of the 150 cases so far 27 have recovered and been sent home.  We have unfortunately had 4 deaths but these were patients with other complications as well.

And so, despite the blips, despite the crisis and despite the concerns we have reason to  be thankful – friends giving vegetables … vendors making home deliveries. Streets quiet. No blaring horns.  Life has truly slowed down.

Mother earth is smiling thankful too. Look at the logic: One delivery truck circulating in the area saves so many hundreds driving to the super to pick up their basics. It’s different from on line deliveries  and Uber eats.  This is ole’ time living.  Less gasoline, less fumes, less pollution, more time.

Maybe when this is all over we should go back to this way of life- but without the military shadow …. ..

It would be interesting to hear about your own experiences in lock down or social distancing …. what measure would you prefer to keep you safe?

I can’t help but feel glad that the ‘devil at the gate was let in. I have to admit that I doubt anyone else would have contained this with quite the success he has.

So … Kudos to you Mr. President.

Ps  Getting used to the new WordPress format. Will.post some pics when I get used to the change.

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