25 November, 2020

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Cultural Barriers To Tackling The Covid-19 In Sri Lanka

By Amila Muthukutti

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. 

Other countries 

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. 

Sri Lanka 

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. 

Conclusion 

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. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    9

    It is not culture, it is stupidity when you allow Chinese to come without quarantine and others to be quarantined. Discrimination leads to people taking this not seriously. Leadership was lacking, strategy used for war with LTTE cannot be used here. A doctor who is specialized in fighting virus should lead the fight instead of a military man, as his skill set is inadequate. Military should provide the support role and man power for control, but the main leader of the group should be a doctor. We need level headed ness and pragmatism, not wild goose chases with monks and sundry giving their two cent worth, Mosque are closed, close the temples, churches and have Quarantine for 14 days with social distancing. Bring harsh laws for evaders. We need to also look after the needy, government and private sector should have rations at these trying times. Pray to Allah thallah as this will be only stop with Allah decree.Brake the idols as these have cursed the country from the start, what can a idol do made from clay, even if a dog shits on it, it cannot do a thing.

    • 12
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      Jehan

      Is it the Allah decree to punish Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia spreading Corona or do you think Muslims don’t infect the virus. Why Mecca was closed, virus is more powerful than Allah.

      • 5
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        latha

        “Is it the Allah decree to punish Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia spreading Corona or do you think Muslims don’t infect the virus.”

        Is it the Allah who decreed to punish Sri Lanka, India, South Korea, Europe, USA, …..
        Perhaps, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia do not have a self proclaimed strongman leader Gota, Shavendra and a government spokesman like Keheliya Rambukwella who claimed to have fought and conquered Coronavirus along with their Rana-viruses even before Corona set foot in China.

        It appears the media, Rana-viruses, some Sinhala/Buddhists, Gota, Kamal, ………….. are still fighting virtual LTTE.

        “Why Mecca was closed, virus is more powerful than Allah.”

        Why Vatican has cancelled all papal Easter sermons, UK soccer games (Brit’s Temple Festivals), …. locked downs, …. elsewhere and curfew all over this island, cancelled Sri Pada pilgrimages, ….. Is it because Allah decreed it?

      • 2
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        This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

        For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 10
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      An ignorant comment. The Coronavirus does not discriminate. People of all religions, in all countries, of every color, have been struck down with it. Now is the worst time to make this somehow an issue about other people’s religion and God, and mocking other religions will not solve the problems we are facing. Grow up.

    • 2
      2

      Total stupidity and a complete lack of managing some crisis like this. The military man or his own cohorts will not have a clue. As I see it this was deliberately done by an uneducated moron of a President and his brother. I won’t be surprised that they remove the military guy and make a Buddhist monk to head the project or even better they might bring that murderer Karuna and make him the adviser or head of it. Anything is possible in Sri Lanka there is no sanity among the politicians they take a shot in the dark, hit or miss situation. They never envisaged that they were going to be pushed in a corner and they are all cornered groping in the dark

      • 2
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        rama

        There is a task force to handle corona which includes DG Health Services, Minister of Health, Army Commander, Head of Epidemiology with some others. Army is helping to transport suspect people, provide food, building quarantine centers etc.

    • 1
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      Amila Muthukutti ,

      RE: Cultural Barriers To Tackling The Covid-19 In Sri Lanka

      Yes. Religious barriers as well. Yet, nobody has attained or reached Nirvana, Nibbana or Heaven.

      “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.”

      Later on, China, South Korea and Singapore has contained it. Yes, it is cultural and religious practices are an impediment.

      Many Sri Lankan pilgrims retired from India, and were quarantined. However, many from Europe, the current epicenter, got out to infect the population.

      Provincial health authorities and the Northern Province Governor’s Office are attempting to contact the attendees of a mass held in Jaffna after the pastor who conducted the mass has tested positive for COVID-19. The mass has been conducted at the Philadelphia Church in Ariyalai, Jaffna on March 15 by the pastor who arrived in the country from Switzerland.

      Following the mass, the pastor had returned to Switzerland where had tested positive for the virus. Almost 300 people have attended the mass according to the heatlh authorities. The Northern Province Director of Health Services Dr. A. Ketheeswaran said two attendees were admitted to the Jaffna Hospital on suspicions of contracting the virus. Dr. Ketheeswaran urged the attendees to contact the health officials via 021 221 7278 and remain in self-quarantine.

    • 0
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      Jehan
      Try not to make bigoted inflammatory remarks at a time when all Sri Lankans need to be united irrespective of caste creed or religion.

    • 2
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      Jehan, the gods made of clay are far superior to your Allan Thallan who is an invisible imaginary creature that exists only in the brains of the idiots who believe in it. And Allan Thallan will never save you from coronavirus because Muslim belief says that it is Allan Thallan who created all organisms including viruses. To believe that the virus was created by someone other than Allan Thallan is an act of disbelief, also known as shirk in the vile Arabian tongue.

    • 0
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      The virus running riot here came from Italy, not China!
      That is a different strain from what the Chinese suffered.
      Where I wonder it originated!
      The star spangled banner??

  • 0
    2

    Bizarre Hindutwa fundamentalism is the new orange coloured culture under the Modi-Amit Sha dispensation in adjacent big brother sub- continent which believe in cow urine cures to fight corona virus pandemic.
    It has a cultural parallel in Mahavamsa shaven headed Sinhala Buddhistic form in little tear drop island in it’s own peculiar way of approach to life with the support of militarist materialism and suppression of it’s minority inhabitants.

  • 4
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    Unfortunately, ignorance hampers the efforts to control to a large extent, the spreading of this terrible disease. We are unable to pull together and meet this challenge, because we are burdened by ignorance, suspicion, hatred, and people failing to follow the rules, and do the right thing. Without unity a nation cannot fight a terrible disease like this, and save lives. If we do not have any unity, the blame should fall on our politicians, who divide the country for their own political agenda, and use religion as a tool, to win votes.
    Chaos and confusion is now the result of their selfishness.
    We are all Sri Lankans, and we have to unite to fight this. Take a look at other nations, and watch how they tackle this pandemic, and learn from that.

    • 1
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      @Manel , well said.
      But sadly there seems to be few things that can not be changed among our people , its not fully correct to blame politicians all the time , even they are always controlled by the previleged segment of our society , to end that the common people from all communities should but religion and race aside as a personal matter and unite as one, people should form united organizations and consult eachother about everything that benifits to not,. there is the good old saying , do not become a sheep , if you do the Wolves will eat you.
      No politocian or Religous fanatic can control ones mind without him giving a free open pass.
      It is 100% the fault of the common man who readily believes anything and everything he is been fed with, without varifying or coming together and consulting with eachother.
      Even look how the curfew was declared , no concerns were given to the ordinary folks , as for the always previleged lot, they have already stocked for another generation or two , so all business were already closed hours before the real Curfew time.
      This is the problem we Sri Lankans have in general ,due to egoism , prejudise and myths, weather its about national issue or even living in a naighbourhood we dislike seeking advice.
      Look how China responded and handled the entire situation by itself , while the whole world were accusing them.amd making a mockery at their grievence ,
      Pls go and readup how they made smooth flow of Food to the 11 million people on lockdown.
      Here 48 hours lockdown and no consideration were given to how common man is to get his food, not all can stock up is someting they must understand.
      There are many things that could have been done, allow eatries And small groceries to deliver to households around them.

  • 1
    0

    It is not merely cultural barriers but, our people are taking laws into their hands, from politicians to public. No respect to the rulers of law. wait and see how it is going to be turning out. if this continues, Sri Lanka will face a trouble financial crisis. some people do not respect curfew/ why?

    • 1
      1

      Are you kidding ? Where is the law and order you are talking about ?. People should learn to respect the rulers who are educated and trustworthy and those in higher positions who have the intelligence to navigate the country. We do not have such people and sorry to say this.Our politicians have had the “divide and rule” policy which has now come back to bite them. The current politicians have placed a wedge between the nationalities and caused the majority to spew at the minority. This state of affairs with the virus spreading will be the first nail in the coffin of Sri Lanka

  • 0
    1

    The common man must remember a few service providers, who were willing to keep working to meet the needs of the people on friday , especially The petrol shed in Town hall and laughs super market and one single food supplier Leenaz.
    We must appreciate organizations that derserves .
    All the others let down the commmon man .
    You need to consult with only china right now, to learn how they did it .
    They made sure food flowed to millions with total shut down.

    Our People only know to believe the lies some prejudised exttemist Religous groups and western anti Chinese medias spread.
    China and her people are amazing ..
    I am.really begining to respect this Country and her People

    • 1
      1

      You are joking. Are you serious that our people should do what China did to let all essential items flow freely. We hardly produce any thing and if we tell our retailers and the manufacturers to do something productive the first they would do is to increase prices,They care less how the people would survive they only want to fill their coffers just like the Bus operators charging thrice the amount for each trip, These are ruthless idiots so please do not expect them to show any kindness. In Sri Lanka Money Talks and Bull Shit walks

    • 0
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      Certain channels of Western media can be biased, in particular those Trumpsonian and the Evangelical ones motivated by their own interests. However, the majority of the well established Western media channels of repute follow ethical norms established code of practice without deliberately distorting facts in their reporting, for they are subject to regulatory scrutiny. Those which exclusively operate on Social media platforms without being subject to any form of scrutiny, often spread fake news and thus one should take extreme care in relying on stories peddled by them. Contrast this with the closed communist party dominated autocratic state of China, where there is no freedom of expression of any kind with a monopolised state media machine with the state deliberately going after those who speak the truth in order to preserve their dominance over the populace. Dr Li Wenliang and his colleague are the most recent victims of such oppressive policies adopted by China, faulting these dedicated doctors whose only aim was to alert the world of this killer virus in Wuhan when people began falling victims to it. So to rely on information from a country that does not avail itself to scrutiny is just not wise, but foolish. It would be a great folly to consult or rely on information emanating from China, on tackling this virus that originated in China, as their only motivation is to hide the truth behind the origins of the virus and the true impact of it on its citizens. On the other hand, Sri Lanka will be best advised to work closely with democratic countries as South Korea and Japan who have been successful in ‘controlling and managing’ this deadly viral outbreak. The best policy now is social distancing which applies not just between people but also in the case of China!

  • 2
    1

    My Elders tell me an ex Hindian PM used to drink a glass of Urine from the first discharge in the morning, to keep him away from Viruses and Bacteria .
    And the Dude apparently scored a near Century to serve the Hindians.

    No wonder the good Hindians have a very low infection rate.

    So this dude is not happy our Army Boys keeping the Lankans in Quarantine .
    Perhaps the President should have implemented the Hindian remedies.

    And appointed a care taker Government as the ex PM Dr Rani and his ex Cabinet Boys and Girls have been vying for, as soon as the first Corona VD came to BIA from Italy.

    I think it is not a bad idea , specially to keep these Intelligentsia happy , while keeping the Corona VD in Quarantine.
    .
    Dr Rajitha Health Minister, Galleon Ravi Finance Minister , Chamapaka Ranwaka Law and Order Minister, Batudeen Sathosa Minister, Rauf Hakeem Muslim Affairs Minister, Ponseka Defence Minister,with IGP Pujitha,in charge with General Senanayaka under the Defence Secretary Hemasiri who gave that funny smile to the foreign reporter after the Easter Disaster.

    Ranjan Ramanayaka and CID Abeysekera could have done a pukka jof as the Cabinet and Police spokesrsons to keep the inhabitants calm without spreading the Virus..

    • 1
      0

      If the WHO, scientists, and experts, have not recommended drinking urine, then sensible and rational thinkers better follow their recommendations. There are many centenarians around the world and most of them don’t drink that beverage, many recommend red wine.

    • 4
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      KASmaalam K.A. Sumanasekera

      “And the Dude apparently scored a near Century to serve the Hindians.”

      Didn’t your Elders advice you to do the same?
      Did you know JR was a fan of Morarji Ranchhodji Desai?

      Did you know JR was pleading the Kingmaker Kumaraswami Kamaraj of Tamil Nadu, (who helped Indra to be appointed as the prime minister) before independence to help this island set up cottage industries? The correspondence were published in a book “Documents of the Ceylon National Congress (1977, Dept of national archives)” edited by Prof Michael Roberts.

      You cannot deny or completely ignore Tamil Nadu from your selected history given that you ancestry started in South India.

      • 0
        1

        Dear Native,

        So it was Muraj Desai .How cool

        Wonder whether his mate, Dr Rani’s Uncle did the same, because my elders tell me uncle Junius also nearly became a Centurian although Mrs Gandhi’s adopted son in Lankawe gave him a hard time..

        Do you know the Aussies apparently call Beer drinking as Piss drinking ?.

        But that certainly sounds better than Cow’s .
        I hope they do not use the same species in Humans for this pastime, although it protect them against Corona..

    • 2
      0

      Yes the Indian PM did drink his own urine and was a man of great standing stuck to his principles. Well no one stopped you from drinking your own urine until the Rajapakse’s bring an addition to the constitution that one should not drink his or her urine or another’s urine. You may really want to try this, who knows you could hit a century and live to see others following your path to good health and prosperity

    • 1
      1

      The urine drinking PM of India has his career cut short in 1978 by Indira Gandhi’s manipulations.
      When did he serve India? He was the one to initiate the political sell out to the US.

  • 0
    1

    And I will be failing in my duty as a believer if I do not thank and appreciate ACJU for the brave and wise decision they made regarding temp .suspension of congreational prayers .
    They took a timely decision fullfilling their religous responsilities towards the people and Country .
    Thank you

  • 0
    0

    in sri lanka it will be taken seriously only if a politician gets it

  • 3
    0

    It’s not cultural but plain selfishness, bordering stupidity, of the general public. GR maybe a man of action but this is not a military strategy & should have been advised by a disaster management ‘think tank’ comprised of appropriate professionals & experienced NGOs such as the Red Cross. The GMOA should have been the first to formulate a quarantine & treatment strategy, advising the President accordingly with the police & the military, if necessary, enforcing strict compliance & offenders punished.

    In typical SL thinking, it is opportunism where possible & not working for greater good. I shudder to think of the outcome if Sirisena is handling this disaster.

    • 0
      0

      The GMOA?
      Are you serious?

  • 2
    0

    Amila, you are absolutely right. The cultural aspects in Medicine is a chapter by it self. From the very beginning taking the information/history ,interpreting the symptoms and signs, terminology used by different cultures, doctors explaining the treatment and the benefits, in every step we are reminded of keeping the cultural aspects in mind. For example Delusions are irrational thought process or beliefs upon which a patient may act. But most of our religious rituals and beliefs when taken out of context can be easily interpreted as delusions. What is sad to see is our own doctors, GMOA and Medical council intentionally keep silent , to help crooked politicians in exploiting such cultural aspects for political gains. Hence we see people like Kekeliya and Pavithra doing what they are good at.

  • 0
    1

    Dear Amila Muthukutti,
    .
    I feel that you have written a most significant and courageous article. I read it a few hours ago, then went off at a tangent – I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. And amplify my essential comment. I need some sleep now.
    .
    One little observation I’d like to pass on now. It was sent me by a Sri Lankan friend (George Braine) who’s spent half his working in life in Hong Kong. I was asked to forward it. I got it on Monday, the 16th; acted on it only on Saturday, early hours.
    .
    There are two strains of this virus. The East-Asian one (China) is weaker. Note the lower proportion of deaths. What we have got is the more virulent strain that is causing havoc in Europe – Italy especially. And Italy appears to be the country to which lots of Sri Lankans (who couldn’t get to Old Blighty where the language is the one we are using), wended their way – either legally or otherwise.
    .
    Rationality is what is needed to understand the range of issues that are involved. Unfortunately, it looks as though few are willing to think clearly. I have noted that you are an economist (not merely an accountant!), and that you have a range of interests. Also, you have written quite a lot in Sinhalese. Reaching out to the Sinhala readers is very much the need of the hour. It is we, Sinhalese, who have had real political power at all times, and thus the mess is one that we must take responsibility for. I have a reputation on CT for being a bit of a peacenik. Some put it more rudely!
    .
    Anyway, I find myself agreeing with you all the way.
    .

  • 1
    1

    “Furthermore, originating from Wuhan, China and spreading in all the other countries in the world”
    The origin of the virus is not established, but it is certainly not China.
    The original fear that it was from wildlife that was sold in the Wuhan wet market has been dismissed although the virus spread from China to a few countries.
    There is uncertainty about the source in several countries including Italy.
    *
    Australian PM Morison’s warning that coronavirus epidemic (or pandemic?) could last at least six months could indicate things other than how seriously he has taken the coronavirus. Overstating the problem (China has tackled it in less than 4 months) has other motives.
    *
    The article is not clear about what cultural aspects unique to us stand in the way of addressing the issue.
    If we examine the way it spread we get messages that point to social irresponsibility of people in responsible positions. That is something that exists in many societies.
    Amarasiri’s comments above are more logical than vague sweeping statements about culture.

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