Living with Covid-19
Posted on March 1st, 2021

BY SARATH WIJESINGHE

Life amid Covid-19

Life amid Covid-19

‘’It is going to disappear one day. It is like a miracle it will disappear’’ repeated Donald Trump former President of the United States of America

Let the above be our wishful thinking though living with Covid-19 is frightening and disturbing. But since we are compelled to live with it the challenge is ours and depends on how we react and fight the virus, following guidelines and medical advice. We are not experts to advise on any form of treatment or invisible forces to combat the virus. The news we receive are uncertain with no credible or scientific sources, leaving us in the dark. Whether the injections are effective will be decided in the future but it appears that UK is slowing down a bit.

No slowdown is yet shown in many rich countries after immunisation of the vaccine. There is no guarantee on the success of the vaccine and the side-effects. Progress is slow and every innovation has side effects and time is needed to test them. Rich countries have given the vaccinations to a majority while many poor nations have not been given the treatment at all. As this is a worldwide pandemic the solution too should be applied worldwide.

For example, Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbour India is densely populated and the close association with fishermen, – smuggling, drug trafficking and involved in the import-export trade are mediums of close contact and transmission between cross – border countries.

The Japanese way of prevention is strict adherence to the rules while Britain is engaged in educating their citizens on social distancing and adherence to rules. Despite the best NHS system, supposed to be the best in the world the death toll in the UK is increasing day by day with some reduction due to the vaccine. China, Taiwan and North Korea are extremely strict but some Western countries have a liberal attitude. All in all unless the entre globe acts as one unit the danger would spread faster than expected increasing the death toll and spreading the disease.

Abide by health guidelines

The Sri Lankan situation is unique though unsatisfactory due to indiscipline in the society acting in defiance of the regulations. The information and statistics received vary on a daily basis worldwide with uncertainty. We are trying to live with this menace and the best and easy way to meet the challenge is to be clean and abide by the directions given by the experts. Sri Lanka started well and if continued would have been one of the best success stories in the world. Some sections of society defy the most dedicated health sector advice. Now the situation has become worse and the pandemic appears to be fast spreading.

This is the time to turn to technology and digitalisation to combat the unseen but powerful enemy successfully. Technology today allows people to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world from almost any device. This has automatically changed people’s work facilitating 24/7 collaborations with colleagues who are disposed across time zones, countries and continents. We must forge all available energies to build new avenues and different paths. The whole world is in danger. The poor are the worst hit and left alone with no vaccine or assistance while the West is full of excesses which is the reality, based on the success of the fittest based on Charles Darwin’s theory, survival of the fittest.

The USA, the richest and the most powerful, is one of the worst hit. Often when you think you are at the end of something you do not realise that you are at the beginning of something else which may be exceptionally good. Let us wish to belong to this category. Let us be the beginning of a new successful post Corona world of our own. May the next year bring an end to the pandemic and the beginning of a normal lifestyle.

We have gone through worse situations before and it is inevitable that humans will emerge victorious, with the power they possess of imagination, innovation and determination. We must protect and save the environment we live in for our own good and the existence of Mother Earth. Covid-19 and the environment are interconnected as food pattern and the way of life has direct relevance to the menace we are confronted with.

There are many theories on the origin and source of the pandemic that started presumably in Wuhan, China and spread paralysing the entire world with the threat to continue and cause further destructions, and there is no possibility that it will end any time soon. Preventive measures were prepared for the community worldwide with little variations to be followed by citizens of all ages.

The preventive measures are as simple as follows: (1) Wash hands frequently and thoroughly (2) Avoid touching mouth, nose and eyes (3) Cover mouth when you cough or sneeze with elbow or with tissues (4) Dispose used tissue into a closed bin and wash hands or sanitise (5) Avoid crowded places (6)Practise physical distancing and maintain at least 1 m distance (7) Routinely disinfect surfaces (8) Stay at home if you do not feel well (8) If you have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty in breathing consult a doctor.

In short it is mooting to live with nature and be clean, in an environment friendly atmosphere consuming healthy food preferably devoid of meat or fish obtained from worldwide food chains and consuming junk including poisonous beverages, especially the young. This is what ‘’Ayurveda’’ medicine too has taught us Asians for over 5,000 years and we have not come across pandemics or diseases such as cancer in our history. It is simple and effective to adhere to these rules.

Transform disaster to success

This pandemic has magnified every inequality in our society, such as, racism, gender inequality, and poverty. The citizen should transform disaster into success and opportunity by adopting to new challenges and circumstances with the help of people friendly innovations on livelihood, environment, employment, medicine, education and generally the way of life in pre– Covid-19 times.

This pandemic may give rise to stronger societies out of necessity and livelihood whereby families and neighbours will be closer and inter dependent on each other which may lead to new ventures in trade and business. Once secluded and confined in houses for long periods the friendship, relationship and neighbourhood bonds are bound to enhance and lead to developments and new thinking as groups. It will strengthen family ties and cooperation in all areas including joint livelihoods. This is the period of innovations such as in Israel where every other person is an innovator converted to a start-up company owner and SME for the development of the nation.

The youth in Sri Lanka today are innovative and computer literate with IT knowledge and computer centres at every junction with basic IT facilities available for payment of utility bills and data for the children for online education. The transport system has been changed with fewer public transport and cheaper three wheeler services, thereby preventing congestion on the roads.

Working from home and flexible office hours have strengthened family ties with less household expenditure. It has increased the resilience to crisis, ensuring sustainable developments. Digital transformation and setting of new digital platforms are inevitable adaptations that have resulted in drastic changes in the economy with a strong political will by the governance also out of compulsion and circumstances.

Education, a badly hit area

Education is a widely hit area in Sri Lanka where the students, parents and the school managements have bounced back successfully despite school closures and interrupted transport systems. Sri Lankan parents have resolved to invest on children’s education for a better future for them and the nation which is a good move. Parents with difficulties invested on expensive data, giving their personal smartphones to the children for their e- education.

E- education is booming in private schools as expected. There were news reports that children in village areas climbed water tanks for Wi-Fi which is a sorry affair and an encouraging news on their capability to adaptation with determination. This is an opportunity to improve e-education and to link with international players through the Ministry of Education and our University system, especially, the Moratuwa University should lead the process. Education should be linked with e education, e business, and e news and information based on advanced IT with ICTA.

The newly set up Technology State Ministries tend to attend seminars and meetings without getting into business and it is time the Minister of Education gives them specific instructions. The nation should rise above all in education and assist all other groups to emerge during the pandemic.

Road discipline and behaviour

The number of accidents is on the rise in Sri Lanka compared to deaths due to Covid-19 and Dengue that we successfully minimised. Road accidents are mainly due to indiscipline and loss of effective control by the governance that has failed to curtail accidents. Relating to the environment sector many youth had fallen victim to ruthless sand transporters in heavy trucks who have taken the law unto their hands with political patronage, linked to environmental destruction. In fact accidents should be on the decline due to less vehicular movements. However, greedy politicos eat into forests and sand on river banks according to the helpless Minister of Environment. Covid-19 is a by-product of the mismanagement of environment and it is the duty of the citizen to exert pressure on perpetrators destroying the environment that we have saved for millions of years.

Trade, employment and Commerce

The economy is bound to set back due to inactivity in all sectors and working from home with the loss of billions of rupees in all sectors worldwide. Sri Lanka feels it more due to less reserves while the pinch is bearable to UK, USA, Japan and EU with their food and fund reserves and assistance from International Organisations. Although there are improvements in the agriculture sector, employment, commerce and trade including exports have decreased. Sri Lankans have been brave and resilient to challenges by bouncing back after the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka and many countries. We won the Tsunami over and winning Covid-19 is certain! Let us raise our nation to be a world power such as Israel during the difficult period.

Covid-19 cremation or burial

During the ancient period, the Muslims who arrived in Ceylon obtained permission from the kings and lived in Sri Lanka for thousands of years as traders and friends having married Sri Lankan women with the freedom to practise their religion. They did not come as invaders- like some other ethnic groups did. Islam is a rigid religion unlike Buddhism, which is a philosophy and a religion with lots of freedom as free thinkers. Many Muslims became mild due to the association of Buddhists and bhikkhus while some became rigid due to fundamentalists’ influence of Middle East contacts.

Sri Lankans are friendly and work together in international and inter-governmental Muslim groups, helping each other in international issues fighting together against rich and powerful groups. Covid-19 deaths are comparatively less and we should and could have taken all the precautions as guided by the committee, and as Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, an experienced politician, supposed to be the most senior politician in Asia, indicated his views with few words in Parliament. We are in an internationalised world community and it is appropriate to adjust ourselves to the views of the international brotherhood which has an adverse effect on Geneva deliberation for no reasonable reason.

Be safe, be smart and be kind – DG, WHO

The virus will mutilate and live on with variants with permanent changes unless we outsmart the virus. The Israelis are the best innovators and best partners in this process to combat the virus. Variants will thrive in poor countries in the way they live with lack of necessary facilities.

The detection of variants in laboratories before they occur will fast spread, which shows the need for sharing of knowledge and international network in combating the menace. Every country must have budgetary requirements and or diversion of other funds for this important venture which is an investment for the future. Monitoring and organising the population to be vigilant and collection of data are important. It is not possible to keep countries in isolation or lockdown too long which could be disastrous.

Way forward to be free from Covid-19

As former President Donald Trump said the miracle will reach mankind as this affects the entire world. As the Director General of WHO stated we have to be smart, kind and safe. Are we? Very unlikely. If we are clean and follow the Ayurveda advice to go through the cleaning process there is no way that the virus would spread.

If we live with nature protecting Mother Earth, she will look after her children. It is time to change for the good or face the danger. Mankind went through many similar disasters of larger magnitude and escaped but the time factor is the issue despite the advancement of technology and science. We should expect the worst and start adapting to modern technology with new platforms and devices, as well as be innovative, for success.

We must have a global program and approach and not a national approach as it is a worldwide pandemic spreading fast so that the world has to act as one. There could be climatic changes and mass destruction of deforestation and release of mass scale garbage to the environment which will have an adverse effect of Covid-19 spread. World leaders must get together and exert a collective approach to face the menace with the scientists and the NGOs headed by the United Nations. This is a matter that cannot be resolved in isolation and therefore sharing of knowledge, experience and data is essential.

The IMF may think of keeping developments aside for a while and start helping members of the world family to get over the most difficult threat. Small is powerful and we will be victorious if we follow the adage that ‘’you are your own saviour and no one else’’. (The Buddha) Therefore, follow the simple rules to the last word and be safe, smart and kind. May everybody be healthy and happy. Sarth7@hotmail.co.uk

The writer is a President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel and President, Ambassadors’ Forum

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