A pandemic of mammoth proportions which shows no partiality has caused life as we know it, to come to a halt! The earth, rotating on its axis continues unperturbed from dusk till dawn – almost sighing with relief at the hiatus it is experience after years of being subject to tremendous abuse. As I write this, it seems the world has gone into lockdown mode or it is rapidly getting there as many countries shut the borders and warn citizens to stayindoors. It is an unprecedented crisis which has literally rocked the world into a state of fear which is almost tangible. This is due to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as the Wuhan coronavirus or Chinese coronavirus. The disease was first identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since spread globally, resulting in the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Muscle pain, sputum production and sore throat are less common.

At present, we are looking to
fulfill our basic needs according
to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which
is the key to surviving in these dire
straits and we cannot put anyone at risk.

While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to severe pneumonia and multi-organ failure. The rate of deaths per number of diagnosed cases is on average 3.4%, ranging from 0.2% in those under 20, to approximately 15% in those over 80 years old ( source Wikipedia). The daily updates show an alarming rise in the disease worldwide. While the world watched with bated breath, the leading manufacturer and importer, China seemingly contained the disease within the parameters of its country by applying stringent laws on travel and food. Yet, the spread of the disease took a deadly turn when it reared its virulent head in various parts of the world through those who had travelled to either their adopted lands or to random vacation spots. Some who had the virus had refrained from informing authorities or follow the quarantine procedures. Hence the strain could not be restrained and within a short duration it spread to South Korea with a carrier (Patient 31) of the virus attending a church gathering with thousands being affected within days.

Thereafter, the virus sailed or flew across the seas to the Mediterranean to the vibrant Italian coast which went into closure within a week since its first diagnosis as it was a culture shock to the Italians to refrain from social gatherings which kindled the fire until it became an inferno raging through the country, causing thousands of deaths in its wake. Throughout this crisis, our very own island nation was maintaining a steady pace as the very first patient who herself was a Chinese visitor, was cured by our efficient medical staff at IDH and sent home after a grand farewell but the tourists continued to flow with quarantine measures being taken as the passengers entering the Bandaranayake International Airport (BIA) were monitored and quarantined. This seemed to contain the virus manifesting in the country until two weeks ago when a group of Sri Lankans returning from Italy crudely shouted their way past airport personnel refusing to board the buses which were to take them to the quarantine wards. Some of the returnees from South Korea too had craftily slipped passed the temperature detectors by dosing themselves with antibiotics to avoid detection of their fever and returned to their homes.

This along with the negligent attitude of a few who had continued with their daily routine, taken vacations and clearly refused to act responsibly, brought the country to a relative standstill with many as 50 people being diagnosed with the virus within days ( 12th – 19th March). On 11th March, a Sri Lankan tour guide was identified with positive signs of the virus which was transmitted through a group of Italian tourists he had travelled with. Subsequently, the government imposed a closure of all schools but by the 16th of March the spread of COVID 19 reached a dangerous level (Mainly due to negligence by the masses) which caused authorities to declare a four day holiday to the work force. While many are facing the crisis with trepidation and anxiety and striving to ensure a semblance of economic stability, the future is uncertain but could there be a sliver of hope? Speaking to a handful of industry experts gives clarity to the current crisis with future predictions not being made at this juncture. Sarinda Unamboowe, CEO & Managing Director of MAS Kreeda, heading Environmental Sustainability for the group referred to its impact as being catastrophic as retail outlets worldwide were stalling their orders and recalibrating with significantly lower orders.

“At present, we are looking to fulfill our basic needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which is the key to surviving in these dire straits and we cannot put anyone at risk. The repercussions are bound to be colossal yet we need to face each day positively and keep moving forward as we, not merely one country albeit one industry but the whole world is facing this dilemma together. Thus the solutions in the wake of its destructive trail would have to be collective, that which would uplift each industry similar to the rising of the Phoenix from the ashes,” said he. As people stay indoors as per government directives, the financial movers and shakers of our country have made extremely magnanimous gestures which are timely and relevant to flatten the curve and tide us over these unprecedented times. Speaking to prominent businesswoman and co-founder of several companies, Varuni Fernando who along with her business partner Dilith Jayaweera and the Board of Directors had reached an unanimous decision to offer the famous property Citrus Waskaduwa (Waskaduwa Beach Resort PLC) to be used as a quarantine centre by the National Operations Centre to prevent COVID 19. Varuni who has spearheaded many campaigns, such as ‘Api Wenuwen Api,’ which have ignited a profound loyalty towards the country said, “Life is precious and in keeping with our mandate which is “Purpose beyond Profit,” which is incorporated with a deep sense of patriotism, I believe that the most pressing need of this hour is to provide a chance at life to each and every citizen of Sri Lanka, as we need to band together as a country in order to overcome this threat.” Referring to similar measures taken by several companies and brands, she suggested that the brands have to develop an affinity towards the consumer not merely as a commodity which is solely focused on profit but a staunch supporter during time of crisis.” While the media platforms are flooded with the effects of the pandemic, it is heartening to see that the downward spiral is contained by counter measures put forth by various organizations and individuals. “Corona has taught Sri Lanka to identify the paramount need of having a National Single Window in operation where the Sri Lanka government committed to the World Trade Organization under its trade facilitation agreement for which the Trade Facilitation Commission is rigorously working.

Automation is necessary and all government bodies should support the effort to promulgate this platform. The large, medium and SME’s are supporting the economy exponentially but the government should establish an ease of doing business atleast in future,” stated Dinesh De Silva, Member of the National Trade Facilitation Committee, past chairman of Industry Associations -Import section and Shippers Council. He further added that the our government should have taken stronger precautionary measures through persistent public awareness campaigns at the onset as it would have prevented (atleast to a great extent) the prevailing situation which has proved disastrous to almost all the industries island wide. Yet due to its global reach, the pandemic has crippled business worldwide, giving the world leaders an opportunity to find a solution to sustain humanity and ensure that all the cogs in the wheel function once again. There will eventually be a paradigm shift in humanity as the aftermath of this might leave us with severe shortages, with the entire supply chain being affected and the buying power dwindling causing the imports and exports to re-evaluate the overall operations.”

A representative of John Keells Holdings PLC, one of Sri Lanka’s leading conglomerates spoke of the decision to flatten the curve by being proactive- employees were requested to work from home except for those who have to meet the demands pertaining to essential needs. It is a challenge but we have taken ample precautions, with safety measures in place for frontline staff and customers. As a market leader, we have also taken the initiative to support the country by offering Trinco Blue due to its close proximity to the naval base as a quarantine centre. We are also continuously supplying the staff at IDH with provisions and other urgent requirements.” While the world pauses for a brief moment there is hope for the world to evolve even in the financial spectrum with the dynamics of each industry being tested for the true purpose of their existence. Meanwhile our heroes; the medical community, Tri-Forces, Police, conglomerates, multi-national companies, larger and smaller local companies, and random groups and individuals have valiantly stepped up to give whatever they could in the form of skills, time, money and the greatest which is love through humane efforts.

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