Two years ago, around this very month, we experienced our last normal, non-covid moments as Sri Lankans, where surgical masks were only used for surgeries, sanitizers were only used by people with germ phobic tendencies, and schools, offices, parties, classes and buses were totally packed with people. Fast forward 2 years to this day, here we are, wearing masks, sanitizing ourselves, avoiding public gatherings and even getting vaccinated. What changed all of the sudden? And how did we deal with it and continue to deal with it still? Will there ever be an end to this?
After the virus quickly started spreading, government lockdowns were ordered in many countries and the world was at a standstill for nearly 4 months. It was a completely new and weird experience to a lot of people and not many accepted the change of lifestyle with open arms. There were a lot of controversies, protests regarding lockdown, wearing masks etc. Speaking from a Sri Lankan perspective, the first lockdown was an enormous success as there were only a very few cases in the entire island throughout that period. Majority of the people, including myself, respected the lockdown procedure and stayed within our houses. Although it was a new experience for most, we managed to live through it and then, lockdown was released. This was a turning point, as after this, though there were two more lockdowns, they weren’t as successful as the previous one.
Even though the first lockdown in Sri Lanka controlled the outbreak of COVID-19, it created a lot more problems. Since all imports/exports, factories, the tourism industry and other methods of income of the country were halted for nearly half a year completely, adding to the existing financial issues of the country, it developed into a situation of crisis financially that we are unfortunately still in. Again, there’s a lot more reasons for the crisis situation than covid, but it and the initial lockdown accelerated the process. Another major downside of the lockdown was the education, all schools and classes were cancelled for the time being and it took some time for teachers to figure out the method of teaching through a virtual platform.
However, online classes have their own concerns with regards to efficiency and whether the student actually learns or not. At the same time, there were students who were supposed to sit for O/L and A/L examinations who had not covered the subject material in time due to the lack of classes. So, examinations were postponed. However, this disrupted the educational system in Sri Lanka as it delayed university admission and induction. These and due to many other reasons, the government decided against another all-out lockdown and instead, followed a lockdown procedure which gave a fair leeway for people to go out and work. While this didn’t completely destroy the methods of income to the country, the primary goal of the lockdowns were not achieved by this as the number of cases began to rise. It skyrocketed particularly after 2020 April where it seemed like every family had gone on vacation.
The vaccinations were important but also a controversial breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed in mid lockdown by reputed medical companies all over the world. Vaccines such as the Pfizer and Moderna were mRNA vaccines while Astrazeneca and Sputnik were recombinant vector vaccines and Sinopharm was an inactivated vaccine. However, for a vaccine to be approved, it takes a long process of testing, trial runs and approvals. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, immediate approval was given, which sparked controversy regarding the safety around using it.
Nowadays, lockdown is not in effect and there are almost no limitations. Personal hygiene and awareness is the remedy that society has turned to, with masks expected to be worn, sanitization and minimal physical contact with other people being practiced. The lifestyle that we had pre-covid has changed drastically, especially when it comes to outdoor/indoor events, some of which require the vaccination card for entry. PCR test results are required in many instances, such as air travel. Antigen test kits are a requirement in a household in case a family member develops symptoms. Most South Asian countries still have the disease on a major scale as hygiene, healthcare and even space is not something readily available at the moment. Therefore, adjustments have been made to our lives for an indefinite amount of time for the safety and protection of both us and our loved ones. COVID-19 is still on the loose, so everyone is urged to stay safe amidst the ongoing economic crisis in Lanka.