28 September, 2020

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Can We Consolidate Or Will We Create Chaos?

By Noel Berman

Noel Berman

So far it appears that the curfew is working as people are indoors but and that’s a big but, what happens when people run out of food?

First, let me state that the system of curfew for a few days and then lifting the curfew is obviously a recipe for chaos. It was anticipated that there will be a stampede on Tuesday (March 24) and the expected stampede did occur while there was discipline in some areas.

So, now, in response to that abysmal failure, we are about to repeat it on Monday (March 30) when curfew is lifted. Or maybe at the last minute we hear that curfew will NOT be lifted throwing everyone into a panic.

Let’s face the facts, I tried, and many others tried calling too, going online and messaging the many shops that are claiming to be distributing during curfew and I personally couldn’t get through to any one of them. Moreover, my friends and family form outside of Colombo tell me there appears to be no system to provide the same services outside of Colombo. 

Meanwhile we keep hearing that certain neighborhood grocery stores are open, but people have no way of getting to them because of the curfew. A totally ad hoc system where a bread delivery man gets to go in some areas, is unavailable in other areas is all contributing to a general sense of unease and increasing fear among the people. Bad enough people are afraid of the virus now they are afraid they will starve to death. 

So, it is understandable when I hear voices of frustration being raised. If people go hungry there is no saying what they will end up doing. Your guess is as good as mine.

So, what must the government do?

The idea of a curfew is not the solution if there is no efficient system of delivery of food to the citizens (rich and poor) in the entire island and not just to some privileged areas. 

Therefore, what is needed is a two-pronged strategy of ensuring an efficient supply-chain and a lockdown where people can go and buy their essential needs once in 3-4 days. 

And while we may not have prior experience in dealing with a pandemic, we have the experience of China, Italy and other countries in enforcing a proper lockdown. We can learn from them as the data is freely available if one wants to research and then draw up a similar plan and implement it.

As to the supply-chain we do have a proper supply chain that has worked, under proper medical and police supervision (where transporters are screened and made to wash their hands etc.) are given passes to keep the food moving from the stores, the farmers and the godowns to the retail outlets. This should be properly planned, implemented and monitored by the various government agencies including the local government.

And finally, the government needs to communicate clearly without creating more confusion. Announcing that curfew will be imposed at 2 pm, then at 12 noon and then again at 6 pm only creates more confusion and the last thing we need is a total loss of credibility.

Will the government take up the challenge and get this working properly or will it let it slide into chaos?

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Very good ideas.. But, I think many people are poor. They will not have money to buy.. Because, people like who do odd jobs or date to day jobs. they have no income.. I think at least 40% of Sri Lankans will suffer soon with starvation.
    1) We no longer could on government alone. it is doing it best. No doubt, this government does it best to control and prevent the spread of this virus, and yet, public should work hand in hand..
    2) so, NGOS and all religious leadership should come out and work for the country.
    what about food distribution protects weekly or at least twice a month..
    this should be done an organised order and system.. All Sri Lankans must be treated equally. Rich can get away with it but what about poor.
    so, villages and cities should do some collective initiatives to distribute basis food items…

    • 0
      0

      London: Yes the NGOs will serve, but the religious organisation – my foot, the buggers will goggle up the food and keed the non perishable to be sold the moment the curfew is over.

    • 1
      1

      Over 45,000 innocent Tamils been bombed and recklessly killed by the Sinhala Sri Lankan Army during final war at Mullivaikkal in the Mullaitivu District.

      Now the Death Toll pertaining to the covid-19 passed 30,000 lives and is increasing day by.

  • 5
    0

    why not lift the curfew at different times for different areas
    this might help reduce the crowds
    of course helping the poor is a different matter

    • 3
      0

      Exactly. Colombo for instance
      6.00am to 8.00 am
      Colombo 1 and Colombo 6
      8.30 am to 10.30 am
      Colombo 2 and Colombo 7
      11.00am to 1.00 PM
      Colombo 3 and Colombo 5.
      ETC.

      You can only shop at shops within your area and go for essential items so shopping takes less time

    • 2
      0

      Good idea to do so, but properly managed and controlled to avoid groups getting together.

  • 3
    0

    India which such population is under full controlled Logistics and Supply Chain Management chain Disease emerging is concerning. Hunger and self-control do not go hand in hand. Outbreaks of new infectious diseases, Hunger growing connectivity to each other, or more encroachment zoonotic viruses commonly eaten in parts of world were responsible, as they were widely sold at markets,

    Short period of curfew for a few days and then lifting the curfew is obviously a recipe for chaos, end up with shortage of food due to no time Hunger prevails

    • 4
      0

      The distribution can be ramped up, by opening the purchasing facility to fixed areas. say Colombo the Govt can select about 10-15 areas, far apart from each other, an open up. Closing down all outlets and opening only the sathosa and Osu Sala is a follish suggestion. It will not work. How many Sathosa outlets are there in Colombo – thanks to Ravi- and how many OsuSala outlets are there. It is like seeking a needle in ahay stack.How many Sathosas and Osu Salas will accept a phone call.
      What farce is this to use Wahtsap. How many have phones that load Whatsap?

      We are supposed to be an educated nation. Where has the education gone?

      • 2
        0

        True, many poor people have simple phones not smart phones with WhatsApp

  • 4
    1

    if one expects a proper systematic methodology to be used to alleviate the pangs of hunger of the much mostly malnourished poverty-stricken masses you must be having many a wet dream.?
    =
    two things occurred today.
    1. a lady whom I help on a monthly basis who lives in panadura sent me an SOS Whatsapp message.
    the first one said can you give me Rs.2000.00 to buy essential foodstuffs during this mayhem of a cursed curfew.
    2. I at once under express money cash transfer sent Rs.5000.00 giving her strict instructions to purchase at least 3 weeks’ requirements such as rice dry-fish dhal etc.
    3. today a few hours ago she sends me another plea moaning for more funds.
    either she’s a spendthrift does not have any sense of money management or the costs must have skyrocketed beyond the moon price and she is a single lady.
    =
    another lady whom I send funds on a monthly basis has thriftily purchased the needs for herself, her mum and 6-year-old son.
    she said that the truck distributing free food during curfew or normal hours only is only servicing those who live on the main roads.
    as she lives off the main road in giriulla by the time she rushed to the main road the vehicle had vanished.
    she then said thanks to you, sir, we have enough food for the next few weeks
    =
    who’s the dude been appointed by the kallathoni of a war criminal of a president to head the committee to oversee the much-needed food items is none other than the infamous Mr. 10% his so-called own younger sibling.
    =
    most of the yokels who by no other choice of theirs are forced to live in this sad sorry Kota Uda hell hole are beating their chests in utter frustration moaning and wailing that basil rajapuka will add many a ton in cash to his already bulky cash reserve which is already being illegally hoarded in many dicey nations.?

  • 3
    0

    Jaffna Saturday
    I saw in Tamilwin yesterday what seemed a sensible message from the Governor Mrs. Charles after consulting the GA and security chiefs in Jaffna. She said that she is authorising local shops to be open and that people could go on foot, and not by vehicle, and make their purchases in the neighbourhood. She also said that vendors could purchase vegetables from producers and sell them in the villages. Hers was a welcome message, gentle in tone and sensitive to local conditions.

    I was disturbed when I heard that some of the poorer folk who had tried yesterday to sell their produce in the Maruthanarmadam vegetable market were beaten and chased by the Police. This was contrary to what the Governor had intended. By evening there was confusion.

    Of course crowds should be avoided and gatherings should be stopped. Sick persons isolating themselves should be emphasised. People generally know how to negotiate the situation. It should be left to local administrators to manage it. Colombo is different and I find orders coming from Colombo harsh, confusing and largely irrelevant.
    As allowed in Britain, I take to the road for exercise when it is mostly empty. I pass persons, few in number, fetching water or groceries from shops that are open. They are well behaved, keeping a safe distance from others. The matter is best left to local initiative.
    The objective of preventing the spread of the disease would be served if people are allowed to walk and motor vehicles are allowed only when there is absolute need.

    • 2
      0

      Can’t agree more with your last paragraph Dr. Hoole

  • 2
    2

    what happens when people run out of food? Why is Noel so sceptical ??
    Villagers have their staples such as Rice, Jack, Manioc, Breadfruit, leaves ects.,

    This question is a question for the Urban dwellers and mostly Colombians, who think Western more than the Westerners.
    In a time of crisis what is important is to provide adequate water. Going without a meal or two or hungry will not kill a person.
    Todate, we have not heard anyone dying of starvation in Sri Lanka.

    GOSL are and have put into place such mechanisms to counter what you say. Nevertheless, SL will prevail

    • 2
      0

      You are right, the villagers and subsistence farmers will not be adversely affected. It’s the urban and semi-urban poor that one has to think of. Only time will tell if the mechanisms we assume are put in place will actually work in bringing essential food items to these vulnerable people.

  • 3
    0

    Where I am living, even face masks are assigned only for professionals. There is emergency, But that is for the govt. People are asked to keep the TWO METER DISTANCES. Most shops are closed except banks and super market or grocery like shops. But, they do not work in full capacity. Sri Lankan locals are not used to this situation. I think the most important is keeping the physical distance and keeping the elderly (even elderly fit people may over come it) and people with chronic conditions away.

  • 5
    0

    The government needs to appoint a capable think tank to work out issues, and there should be cohesiveness at all levels in carrying out directives that are formulated.
    This think tank should include amongst others, law enforcement, medical experts (epidemiologists), NGOs (who will have a good pulse for the people who they serve) clergy of the different religions.
    Ad hoc decisions in reaction to ground situations should be the exception. Should such decisions be made they need to be reviewed urgently by those in authority above the decision maker.
    Over all there needs to be sense of compassion and understanding that needs to be utilized in formulating and carrying out these directives. After all we are dealing here with people. Each and every family and individual will have their own unique situation and some will be more critical than others. Should there be infringements, discipline is needed for the greater good of society, but needs to be tempered by the fact that by and large that those those who commit such infractions are probably doing so in desperation to fulfill a dire need during a tumultuous period, the likes of which they have never experienced before.

  • 3
    0

    The true chaos will start in a few months when stocks run out. No doubt the lockdown globally will cause difficulties in shipping and distribution. Goods will perish ,producers will go bankrupt , there will be no money in circulation . I’m dreading what is to come economically more than I fear the virus

  • 1
    0

    Here in Europe as in most parts of the world, containment of the virus is only possible with confinement. However as Noel points out, The Government should not simply wash their hands and tap their backs in responding to this action in compliance to the need of the hour! It should go beyond just that. It has to put into its process of action,
    1. Communication – Update and Precautions
    2. Tools of control – Prevention of hoarding (hamstering of goods) and its distribution of basic
    3. Testing that can be taken from house to house
    4. Containment or Quarantine areas – using the forces to maintain calm in this process
    5. Assisting with aid and need of basic medical equipment and clothing and its distribution to the peoples.
    6. Education by means of the media to the peoples and helping them in becoming more responsible in order to control this virus.
    This is not the end of the world! It is a reset button that has been initiated and will help bring the country to one level of working together and this can be enhanced by the Govt, if it clearly can be its mentor. Sri Lanka has the chance of profiting from this time as a whole if they pull together and responsibly learn together and implement new routines of life. The Government can enhance that hope and dream. If it sacrificially operates in that interest.

    • 0
      0

      Yes, communication can be enhanced and people educated through the mass media. You make some interesting points.

  • 0
    1

    In my humble opinion, I think the SL govt has no clear strategy as how to deal with this crisis. The first to advise the govt. should have been the GMOA but, if I am not mistaken, their first response was to ask the govt for a special allowance for doctors but I believe they backtracked soon after fearing a public backlash. The govt appeared to be groping in the dark for a solution & imposed an indefinite curfew but for the average man on the street, it was an opportunity for a ‘curfew party’, little realising that the reason was for people not to congregate to prevent the virus spreading. Many of my SL friends approved, saying that it was the only way to deal with the average people of the country but its not rocket science to understand the purpose is lost as soon as the curfew is lifted for a few hours due to the stampede & panic buying at the shops.
    In UK too, people acted irresponsibly initially ignoring the govt. request to stay at home & limit travelling other than for essential needs but persistent advise from the govt. & the media, people realised situation & self quarantined them selves. Apart from the ‘shutdown’, including the closure of airports in some countries, there has been no curfew in developed countries, as a curfew would be imposed only at times of war or extreme violence, such as civil riots, unless governed by an autocratic regime. Boris Johnson has informed the public that the govt. will take ‘appropriate measures as & when needed’ but the message now is to stay indoors. The virus is not airborne but spread by touch, usually by spit & mucus when coughing or sneezing, hence, the advise to keep a distance of 2m between people & to wash hands as often as possible.

    • 0
      0

      The curfew worked during the war against the LTTE unfortunately the same Paradigm, called the law of the hammer is being used here. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

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