By Amila Muthukutti –
By this time, almost every country in the world has become a victim of Covid-19, irrespective of their wealth and power. Even though it is completely up to medicine and epidemiologists to explain the virus and discover a new medicine for that, containing spread of the virus can be explained in a sociological perspective. Furthermore, originating from Wuhan, China and spreading in all the other countries in the world, it has claimed human lives more than ten thousand. However, the extent in which the virus could attack the countries is different from each other, not because of wealth and power, but because of their culture of taking precautions and dealing with the virus. Even if it is true that science and technology plays a bigger role in curing patients, culture of a country plays the most pivotal role in containing spread of the virus. This is clearly proved, when we observe that how people in different countries have responded to this pandemic in different ways.
Oxford dictionary defines culture as beliefs and attitudes about something that people in a particular group or organization share. Unlike for other diseases, people’s behavior is a critical factor for containing the spread of a virus. Accordingly, a country without wealth and sophisticated medical equipment, is capable of containing spread of the virus and managing the situation, only if that country has a good culture of hygiene and discipline. This is to briefly compare Sri Lanka with other countries in terms of the fact that how people have reacted over the virus.
It is better to have a look at other countries before Sri Lanka, as it paves the way for a broader discussion and comparison. Few days ago, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison, declaring a human biosecurity emergency, warned that the coronavirus epidemic could last at least six months. Although this is just an opinion, it indicates that how seriously he has taken the coronavirus. Accordingly, they have not yet imposed curfew, as they can manage the situation by practicing good hygiene and self-quarantine. Italy has been the worst case, exceeding even the death toll of China. They found first coronavirus case in January. The following day, Italian Prime Minister blocking flights from China stated that they could reassure all the citizens, the situation was under control. By this time, we all know how it is getting from bad to worse in Italy. Even USA has not yet imposed curfew all over the country, but for certain counties.
Even though India has had relatively few confirmed cases of coronavirus, people are reportedly following plenty of misleading advices like drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body for tackling the coronavirus. Even a politicians had suggested that those remedies could be used against the coronavirus. As foreign media reported, a Hindu nationalist group had held a cow urine drinking event in Delhi to promote its use for tackling the virus. Furthermore, Indian Prime Minister decided to impose nationwide curfew on Sunday for combating the coronavirus.
First Sri Lankan coronavirus patient in the country was identified, when the government was preparing for the general election. Although number of people confirmed positive for the coronavirus was on the rise, the president stated that the general election should be held as scheduled. By that time, plenty of medical advices was circulating, some of which were either misleading or financially motivated. Many came forward that they could cure the virus. What people were forced to follow or probably voluntarily followed was some local medical advices rather than understanding the symptoms. When people in developed countries were trying to understand symptoms and go for self-quarantine, people in this country started politicizing this issue. When you listen to the speeches made by presidents of other countries and compare with ours, huge difference can be seen. Furthermore, a certain politician was reported to be distributing face masks among the public, especially removing his wearing face mask and giving it to a person for wearing. That person also did not reject it. This behavior is not so different from the politician in India who suggested drinking cow urine for combating the virus. Obviously, it reflects political culture in the country.
Even though quarantine has been a part of our culture especially against contagious diseases like measles, it seemed that people were not so familiar with the term “quarantine” and hesitated to respond it. The fact that a new term is used for making the public aware has led to a situation where people could not properly understand the seriousness of the virus. Moreover, politically motivated people tried to spread a view that those who won a war against LTTE can combat the virus and win. They could not properly understand the difference between winning a war against a terrorist organization and fighting against a fatal virus which is easily communicable to others.
It is still proved that a segment of the society doesn’t have an idea of what this is, when they go out and interact with others. Despite requests repeatedly made by police and medical authorities to stay at home, people could be observed to be roaming here and there. Some patients who came from Italy, but hid the fact that they came from Italy communicated the virus.
All the stories mentioned above clearly reflect social and political aspects of the culture that are not strong enough for fighting against the coronavirus. As the culture of many Asian countries including Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to be supporting for the fight, it can be stated that cultural barriers for fighting against the coronavirus are very high. Imposing a nationwide curfew is not a good sign in terms of the culture, as it proves that people don’t support for the program of fighting against the coronavirus by being at home. Even now, number of people confirmed positive for the coronavirus is on the rise. Therefore, extend your support for combating this fatal virus by being at home, irrespective of your political ideologies.