14 August, 2020

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COVID-19: Why We Should Unite – A View From An Expatriate

By Shanika Somatilake

Shanika Somatilake

The coronavirus COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). It has rapidly spread worldwide in less than just three months, since it was first reported in China.

As it stands, Italy, France, Iran and South Korea have been the most-affected countries with many countries, such as Italy and US declaring an emergency lock-down to contain the epidemic. The number of confirmed cases across the globe stands at 145,857 with 5,436 deaths with the numbers expected to rise.

There have been varied responses to coronavirus COVID-19 in each country and here in New Zealand, with the sixth person having tested positive, the government has revealed the latest steps in its plan to beat the virus by: subjecting all travelers to the country (including citizens and residents) to a 14-day self-isolation period. A travel ban has been implemented prohibiting cruise ships from entering New Zealand until late June. The government has advised its citizens to avoid all non-urgent overseas travel. As part of a range of measures being considered to slow down the spread of the virus, restrictions on mass gatherings have been imposed and the government has stated that it would also consider school closures, if necessary. Good hygiene practice and self-isolation if showing symptoms are amongst the advice to the public. So far, there have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19 in New Zealand.

For many Sri Lankans living abroad who have family and friends back home, the news of COVID-19 gaining a foothold in Sri Lanka have been hard to bear. The global pandemic is pushing every healthcare system to its limits, with many countries facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitary supplies. The fear of the unknown has driven people to empty out supermarket shelves across the globe, leaving many without essential goods.

The general perception that Sri Lanka’s healthcare system would not be able to handle a major internal outbreak is the root cause of fear for many of our friends and family, as they prepare for the worst back home. Data from WHO shows that people at high risk for serious COVID-19 infection are mainly the elderly. People receiving cancer treatments and those who have chronic diseases, such as Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Lung disease have also shown to be at high risk for developing serious illness if infected.

The travel measures and the school lock-down rolled out by the new government in Sri Lanka may aid in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus, but many of us believe that due to the shortcomings of the country’s healthcare facilities, extreme measures are needed at the borders, such as: a mandatory quarantine for all travelers to Sri Lanka regardless of nationality; a shut down of international airports; or restricting foreign ships from entering the country.

Another concern is the economic disruption stemming from the COVID-19 for countries around the globe. Large economies, such as the US have already unveiled their plans to provide financial assistance to those who are most vulnerable in the community, such as the elderly, pregnant mothers with young children, single parent-households and those who have lost jobs. A few days ago, New Zealand also announced its plans to support workers and businesses affected by coronavirus in the tourism and fisheries sector through tax reductions and income assistance.

For a small country such as Sri Lanka, a coronavirus outbreak would bring the economy to its knees. Being famous for its pristine coastlines, the country leans heavily on tourism and foreign trade. Extreme measures at the airports to combat the COVID-19 would deter tourists and foreign investment away from the country. With agricultural food production having taken a nose dive due to recent droughts, any ban imposed on shipping vessels would directly affect food supplies and may cause a famine amidst a serious epidemic.

World health experts are still unable to predict when the coronavirus may end or how long it might linger. Tough times are ahead for Sri Lanka to balance the control of COVID-19 while keeping the economy afloat. It goes to show that in these dire times, countries with self-sufficient economies would have a better chance at tackling such a global crisis. As a Sri Lankan living abroad, there is one thought that plays over and over in my mind. We may have different views about politics in Sri Lanka, but we all have one commonality and that is to see our families safe and for Sri Lanka to prosper. So, let’s set our petty political squabbles aside and focus on giving our full cooperation and the necessary support for the new leaders of Sri Lanka in mitigating the effects of this pandemic in our homeland.

*Shanika Somatilake is a Sri Lankan Kiwi residing in New Zealand. She is an Electrical Engineer by profession with a passion for political cartooning and world music

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    “but many of us believe that due to the shortcomings of the country’s healthcare facilities, “
    I dont agree with this. Many of us means who? Also Srilanka’s health sector is well prepared to tackle any situation and they have all the expertise. Facilities to manage the patients have also been provided in the IDH. Srilanka’s health is one of the world’s best in developing countries.

    • 5
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      Shanika Somatilake ,

      RE: COVID-19: Why We Should Unite – A View From An Expatriate

      “We may have different views about politics in Sri Lanka, but we all have one commonality and that is to see our families safe and for Sri Lanka to prosper. So, let’s set our petty political squabbles aside and focus on giving our full cooperation and the necessary support for the new leaders of Sri Lanka in mitigating the effects of this pandemic in our homeland.”

      Thanks for your article and for your cartoon, about the Tsunami Hora.

      The question of how to tackle the OVID-19 virus, should be put to the saffron clad Para-monks, Para-Priests and Para-Ulama. Ask them if they have any tools in their arsenal of preaching and prostrations, that can stop the virus? Or. are they simply waiting for the faithful to get to the “next world” or go extinct, which the virus seems to be good at.

      Anyway, at this stage isolation and minimizing social contacts is best until, effective anti-virals are developed, and a vaccine is developed, that will get the immune system ready to protect, by the virologists and the scientists, not the saffron clad Para-monks, Para-Priests and Para-Ulama. However, the saffron clad Para-monks, Para-Priests and Para-Ulama, are useful in consoling the living, after the dear ones depart.

  • 12
    6

    How to unite with a tribal Sinhalese mindset of genocide, killings, brutal massacres of innocents, countless riots against Tamils, cruel disappearances, many severed heads of Tamils, burning alive and burying alive of Tamils for last 72 years? Yet Sinhalese masses are very jubilant and celebratory of the above inhuman behaviors of their own kind for such a long time. Even this cruel pandemic is used to genocide Tamils by sending Corona patients to North and East hospitals all the way from Colombo airport. NE hospitals are the least developed and least funded with very little resources. South has so many modern hospitals and facilities yet this decision shows cruel Sinhalese mindset of blood thirsty brutality. Sinhalese will have a very cruel surprise from Chinese and Muslim fronts in no time. Tamils should remain neutral unlike in 1915 pleading with British army to save Sinhalese from Muslims.

    • 1
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      You have said it. Another Tsunami or Mullivaikal?

  • 2
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    Treatment for viruses is vaccination. It says, there is more than one strain (five types or strains) are causing havoc in the world. I can not understand why wealthy countries do not take the lead. Probably, they want to sell the vaccine at high price, so every body just talk.

  • 4
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    chineese allowed without quarantine. because politicos paid off by chineese ccp. our health minister kissing the chineese infected person sent a wrong message, as everything is ok. so we are catching up.

    • 1
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      Je Han
      Chinese are allowed without being quarantined is because China where the virus originated from has taken stringent measures to prevent it from growing and spreading in it’s own interests about the welfare of it’s nationals and image.
      Before being permitted to travel abroad the Chinese government has by itself taken steps to permit it’s nationals to travel abroad only after under going medical tests that they are free from the virus. That perhaps explains the reason that the SL government has
      allowed Chinese working in SL’s development projects to be allowed without being quarantined.
      I am no blind supporter of the Gota government but real facts should be understood. I don’t know why the SL government is coy about remaining silent on this point and being misunderstood.

      • 0
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        The Powerful Triple Gem will cure Sinhala Buddha Sri Lanka.

    • 0
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      When questioned as to why the Chinese have been let loose from Katunayake?
      This is what they said
      1. ” The virus is dying down in China and therefore no need to check.
      2. The embassy here will check on them.
      3. They have been checked before they left China
      Which is the correct one?
      Or they will give us loans in case We catch the virus.

  • 3
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    Who is entitle to get insurance beneficiaries and or year health checkups yearly most don’t go to doctors because of the fees, what is addition benefits unemployment insurance virus has no border and recognize classes now all are in one boat and get the same treatment, and face non-recoverable situation how can a poor be eligible to buy medicine visit nearby doctors to self-quarantine not to spread viruses to others the fund spent for election can be utilized, priority for Election victory and power is rare case success the virus, present need is don’t adjust the goals, adjust the priority action action steps.

  • 5
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    I am just about to leave UK via Sri Lankan and not really knowing what to expect both in the flight and at arrival. Such is the gravity of uncertainty that has engulfed the world and the countries are struggling to cope up with this unknown or now little known reality. However one thing is clear the whole of humanity has pushed the panic button and I do not see the need for it other than to take all cautious approach to prevent the spread of it. Just before I left (an opportunity for me as the courts have adjourned some the cases pending because the vulnerable witnesses could not be exposed) I put up a notice in my office (a solicitor’s practice here in London) read….polite notice… we no longer shake hands to greet you, not because we have a problem with you but to avid the spread of COVID 19… To some in the UK this was somewhat offence yet that needs to be implemented and hope my staff will adhere to that in my absence. Nonetheless the panic mode is not to be taken light but humanity should shoe some leadership regardless of the boundaries to cope with it. Unlike Spanish flue of 1920s where there was no mass communications and globe trotting, this time around its serious as a result of the birth of a humanity without borders. I wish everyone good luck and common sense to prevail. Take special care of the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

    • 4
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      Well then, when I pen this note, I am back home from Heathrow after getting my boarding pass and into the gate and then off loaded. Suddenly it was announced that all flights from UK are cancelled and called off the trip. Thinking what kind of uncertainly I predicted before I left home to the airport. Never mind they said that a full refund or a rebooking is available in Sri Lanka. The story is not about me but about things that happened. There were may be about 150 tourists and others and what I observed was that no one took offence of that decision however inconvenient it was and I suppose it was a show of strength to find a common ground beyond our own inconveniences so that we unite to fight this menace. I will try again when they resume.

      • 1
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        Perera,

        Better late than never,

        Thanks for your eye-witness report.

        The best one can do is not to get infected, become a host for the virus to multiply, and to spread to all others. The people and the governments, have been slow to react initially, not taking proactive measures, and now they all are taking reactive measures and some proactive measures.

        It is best, if they can clamp down everybody for 3 weeks, identify and isolate those who are infected.

        Get your immune system in better shape with Vitamin D, 5,000 IU daily, Vit C 2,000 mg daily, Zinc , perhaps 2 to 3 tines or more of daily requirements, and Vit B complex, along with no social or business mixing, stay 2 meters away etc., until a vaccine is developed by the honorable and venerable virologists, biologists and scientists.

        Right now the health care withers are the first line of defense of infected.

        Do not get infected and overload the system. Do what the bears do: hibernate for a few weeks.

  • 1
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    This is nothing but karma.. for the last two decades, how many million innocent people have been killed in many parts of the world. All this are done by weapons produced by west and Russians. Now, they will pay the price, More virus to come to haunt all these people who committed crimes again humanity. Do not think Putin, Trump and others will get away with their killings of innocent lives. Ghosts will hound them and their souls. that is what going to happen.. Moreover, western greed is now paying off all this. More to come. wait and see how many more disasters to come to wipe out humanity because of some greedy people. Doom day is soon.

  • 5
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    In most progressive developed countries, bipartisan support for national crises is spontaneous and automatic. That is also a sign of maturity. However, the political system that has prevailed and prospered in Sri Lanka prescribes a different policy. That is one of general callous disregard for the deaths of ordinary people. While every measure is taken to protect completely and unequivocally the interests of major corporate business and their political accomplices, mere lip-service and mediocre responses in terms of fund allocation for the public health system would be the norm. For example, a new “official” vehicle for a minister, costing say Rs 60 million will not be foregone to install a screening laboratory in a rural district. Private hospitals are no different. They are largely run by “consultants” who are directors of these ventures themselves. Items that cost them a mere few rupees are charged at multiples of thousands of rupees with absolutely no justification. Yes, the major players on either sides of the political divide are the best of friends and co-operate like hell in sharing and taking turns at the trough of public funds while screaming abuse at each other in mainstream media. At a predicted 3% of covid-19 fatalities on the assumption of a 30-70% infection rate globally, you can make your own calculations for the 22 million scapegoats in Sri Lanka.

  • 4
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    COVID 19 in SL due to reckless & selfish behaviour of our own SL imports who fled from the COVID ravaging Countries of Europe.
    This is Nature’s fury against Conquering Western Block…………
    Worst is yet to come.
    “I put up a notice in my office (a solicitor’s practice here in London) read….polite notice… we no longer shake hands to greet you” YES PRINCE CHARLES FOLLOWED YOU.
    RBH… Not in SL. With all the short coming of her people in this blessed Nation.
    Jehan .. the Health minister stooped cheap. But here again our culture.
    JD….. the wealthy countries attempted to bad mouth the Corona as it has infected the Chinese but suddenly find it in their back yard. Chinese showed the way to combat or control BUT the so called wealthy Western Block are unable to follow because they are NOT CAPABLE.
    Nuclear Power bullying days are gone. Its pay back time for the Conquerors & trouble makers for the others..
    ROLAND PERERA…. enjoy your moment before you begin to swallow.

  • 0
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    COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, Lack of breathing satisfaction or Every body is afraid to bread , Remember to breathe.

  • 4
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    What part of 85,000 people in the US dying of influenza during last 3 months of winter, with vaccine and all, don’t people get !

    • 3
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      “What part of 85,000 people in the US dying of influenza during last 3 months ” – Yes, media magic

  • 1
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    In three articles, one from a SL defence analyst, another from US and this from NZ, all talk corporation in this. But how could you suggest that when they sabotage whole world because their need to dominate the world. I can not understand. Why do they have so many different kind of warfare cold wars and hybrid wars have been the commonest at this time. What do you think militarily attacking feeble small countries

  • 4
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    agreed, we need to close ranks now for the sake of our people…
    eventhough…… it’s difficult to forget the system that has been sold to us as the best, The OPEN MARKET ECONOMY AND PARLIMENTRY DEMOCRACY is now understood to look after only the rich.
    The rich can stay home and keep safe, the poor man earning day wages or the people going from pay check to pay check can’t afford to stay at home to avoid COVID 19.

    Let’s follow the sane counsel and stay safe, avoid tavelling when possible, wash hand as much as possible . Do what ever possible to avoid contamination to save the poor public.It is our Human , national duty.
    That said….
    It’s amusing to note, how when COVID 19 was announced in SL loads of people ran to gas stations to fill their cars and bikes ,where in other countries people ran to the supermarkets to byu food and…..loo rolls!!. Were Sri Lankans considering driving to some other country?crossing borders to drive up to some COVID19 free paradise? OR were they planning to go on holidays while country is in lockdown so they can spread some Corona??

    we may need to distibute some free condoms to our people so that in 9 months we don’t find lanka with millions of “Corona Babies” made during lockdown . If that happens there is no hope at all for Sri Lanka , we will have the biggest population of D… F….’s in the world.

    • 0
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      Do we need a Covid 19 for Srilankans to unite? There was a power cut in USA some years back and 9 months later a population boom was experienced called the ‘Black Out Boom’ Chatura You are right. Along with the face mask, one Condome may be given free.

      • 0
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        “Along with the face mask, one Condome may be given free” – Please make it reusable…

  • 0
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    Good piece of advice for the UNP Elite and the Anglican Faction of Dr Rani
    Apparently this Faction is going full bore to destroy the Keslwatta Kid and his new found Dalit Faction .

    One has to give it to the Kid for forming his own Faction which even his all powerful Elite beater old Preme couldn’t do…

    Young Preme told the Dalits in Avissawella the other day that some people are desperately trying to trip even before the Election.
    And he will never give in no matter what , assured the loyal UNP Dalits.
    Not even Corono VD can stop him the Kid said.
    Fighting words I guess in these bad times.

    After calling the Kid a High School Drop out Galleon Ravi has done his dash,

    Now all Dalits and Dalit supporting UNP MPs and ex Ministers are with the Kid, although some are just temps.
    So Akila Boy and Dr Rani have only limited resources to roll the Kid now .
    So Kid I am sure will overcome it.

    But I am not so sure about his assurance that Corono VD can’t stop him .
    Because it is 14 Days quarantine if Corono VD hits him.

    If the Kid tries to address his UNP Dalit Meets pretending that he has no Corono VD , it is automatic Six Months in Welikada , according to the latest Police Gazette.

    Even if the Kid manages to do a Galleon like hiding and trying to get the HC to help him , the Kid will be losing valuable time to tell the suckers about his new Free Bees Manifesto to take them to Singapre with a new round of free Period Pads and free Bath Packets like last time..

  • 2
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    At a terrible time like this with the Wuhan Pandemic, a little bit of eye Candy certainly helps settle the nerves.

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