Personal and Private Opinion on the Lockdown


So on Tuesday May 26 we in the extra high risk zones were also released from the lockdown which had lasted an entire two months and more. The news of release, announced on Saturday May 23, sent contrary thoughts reeling through the mind. Is it safe and timely or premature? Will the social contagion so carefully and strictly prevented take hold and a second wave of Covid 19 engulf us? But then the reasonable mind asserted itself. How indefinitely can a population of part of the island, including its metropolis and commercial hub, be kept restricted? The economy has to be resurrected; daily wage and other informal sector employees must go back to work. Experts say that if people maintain social distancing and other restrictions, the situation should be all right. We hope and pray so.

Complacent attitude

We oldies were glad about the prolonged lockdown. Maybe we are amenable to discipline and considering the greater good even though it meant personal sacrifices. In school and at home back then, we were disciplined and even restricted to a certain degree. So we took the shut-in calmly and liked it since it seemed to win against the C virus. Not so young ones, who even in this conservative land of ours, move around freely, love their late evenings and weekends out of home chilling and wining and dining with friends. I don’t suppose it came to the extent of causing severe frustration and consequent depression. But it looks as if counseling and emotional help lines were buzzing in the western world.

A very sensible man seemed to feel a slight strain in self-locking in his flat in a southern state in the US. Families were fine over there but this bachelor who was so used to walking to office, visiting work sites, meeting with friends for meals, flying out often and enjoying complete personal freedom, felt reluctant but locked himself down. He took time to adjust to keeping severely to himself, not even accepting invitations for drinks-for-eight-persons on the rooftop of his apartment building. He prevented frustration overtaking him by disciplining himself to a stricter routine of keeping definite working hours at home and nipping out for walks and visits to a huge market when necessary. If he - mature and brought up in Sri Lanka with restrictions – felt disturbed, how much more would typical American young ones feel? The first thing he did when airlines opened for bookings from the general public was to book himself a ticket to sightsee a historic city in a neighbour country. "At least travel tickets can be cancelled with no cost" he said.

I personally loved the shut-in. No need to be ready to be visited or visit; more time for a daily routine of meditating, yoga exercises; reading and keeping in (distanced) touch with friends and freeing nails from polish and face from any sort of makeup. Broke a lockdown rule by visiting a housebound neighbour as she was affected by the shut in; she who by choice and inability never went out, now chafing at restrictions. Patience was called for from me.

Others contacted were all happy to be locked in for the general good.


These were received via email on the imminent release from lockdown:

From a US returnee in Kandy, they having only night curfews for a while: "Actually, I had very little or nothing to say because, all the fun was when we couldn't get out. When there was freedom to move, people got busy, boring and official.  They got preoccupied with their own affairs and now the neighbourly attitude is different but still very sweet and supportive if contacted. Everything good and bad is habit forming; I just got too comfortable not going out. For me, it is such a chore - shopping. I prefer to buy my bread and tea buns from the ‘choon paan van’ because it is so novel."

She added: "It shows how resilient and adaptable people in SL are unlike overseas! Isn't it true how this corona has brought reality of life to the surface, whom are we showing off to? The fear of dying is so strong in us, including me, the one who is preaching otherwise. We are forced to change our values and attitudes. I'm sad when I wonder when we will feel free to go on vacation, an outing, dine in a restaurant and dive into a pool. Isn't this such a strange feeling?"

A Colombo woman who drives herself around and loves socializing but is religious and does much giving, commented: "I’m beginning to savor the peace and quiet of being locked down, dressed down and not dressed up - as I’m certain that no one will pop in! But the greatest joy of that occasional drive on traffic-less, pollution-free roads will sadly be no more. As an elder, I don’t need to bother about being jobless, but I do have concern for the ones who need to find work...   So, this is the ‘new normal’?

"Let us take it as it comes, after the lockdown is over and we’re let loose....let us change our attitude for the better, be kinder, more courteous, caring and sharing - of course, masked and with responsibility, perhaps for a little while longer?"

A friend living comfortably in a suburb of Colombo wrote: "I was cautiously optimistic about the probable lifting of curfew around the beginning of June although I have concerns about how social distancing will play out in reality. ‘Coming out' earlier on 26/5 scared me silly. Are there plans in place for public transport? How is social distancing to be enforced in shops, kades, pharmacies and liquor and betting shops? I hope early release is based on health and economic conditions. If it is for political purposes only, it would be a crying shame. It would be awful if we have to get back into curfew or lockdown in the near future having been released too early."

Debate on Lockdown vs

Herd Immunity

Kumar David’s article in the Sunday Island of May 24 titled ‘Lockdown and Control or Herd Immunity: it’s a deal more complicated and uncertain than one thinks’ deals with the world wide debate on the two ways in which countries reacted to the Covid 19 pandemic. He elucidates each clearly and speaks of lockdown as Isolation and Confinement (I&C) and the freer Herd Immunity (h-i) as the better answer to continuing life in spite of the pandemic. He says: "What’s going on in Sri Lanka is extreme, draconian and excessive harassment."

I totally disagree with him on that statement and refute strongly his assertion that we were excessively harassed. Even on just one point:– that of the numbers dying in the US as against the ten so far dead in locked down Sri Lanka, proves lockdowns are much better for containing the contagion. I won’t labour the point. And why did leaders like Trump and the Brazilian decide not to insist on any restrictions but leave it to individuals to decide whether to I&C or h-i? Because they gave consideration to the economies of their countries above lives (if they have to die, let them) and taking note of protests calling for freedom to roam, have fun, sea bathe and make the most of spring and summer.

In a recent BBC Hardtalk session with Nils Anders Tegnall - physician in infectious disease and State Epidemiologist of Sweden - Stephen Sackur without mincing words asked him direct whether he did not feel somewhat responsible for all the deaths from Covid 19 that have occurred in Sweden due to government policies, given the OK nod by medical consultants such as Tegnall on no restrictions imposed on people during this raging pandemic. Tegnall showed discomfort but defended himself and government policies. Sackur’s Britain too flirted with h-i and freedom of movement and association until the PM came down with the infection necessitating hospitalized intensive care – to help him breathe news reported, but who knows whether he had to be on a ventilator.

Kumar David rightly says you can unfortunately expect a second and third wave when and if this pandemic subsides, due to migrant workers for one, entering the country so how impose lockdowns again and again. To me the first lockdown was utterly necessary and a very wise step. At least it gave breathing space, time and opportunity to focus solely on the prevention of the pandemic and not be distracted by mass social infection. Yes, recurrences of the infection may occur but the hope is that the initial lockdown will eliminate the need for further lockdowns. Even delayed lockdowns as in UK have been shown wiser and succeeded in saving lives than allowing people to move around freely. Many older ones have vowed to take long to resume usual, former life routines and habits.

Stop press: We applaud Dr Anil Jasinghe for his latest wise medical suggestion of no charter planes bringing back of workers from highly infected areas like Kuwait. We suspect many went illegally circumventing the Bureau of Foreign Employment so the government is not to be called upon to help them return at risk of widespread contagion and being a further drain on limited health services.

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