‘Avurudu,’ COVID, Economy
Tomorrow Sri Lanka celebrates another Avurudu (Sinhala and Tamil News Year), this time, however, bereft of lockdowns, shutdowns, curfews and restricted movements which were a feature in the last.
Those precautionary measures were taken last year to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but at a tremendous cost to the economy.
The economy, due to border controls, curfews and lockdowns contracted by 1.6 per cent in the first quarter (1Q) 2020, its first contraction since 4Q 2001, when the economy shrank by 3.6 per cent, complemented by the fact that the Government of the day lost the Parliamentary Poll held in December 2001.
Further, the economy suffered its largest quarterly contraction, shrinking by 6.1 per cent in 2Q 2020, before growing by 1.5 per cent, aided by the fact that total lockdowns were removed on 11 May 2020. However, as a whole, the economy in 2020 shrank by 3.6 per cent, its worst ever performance.
What therefore is needed is striking a balance between COVID-19 control and keeping the wheels of the economy moving.
The first death caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was registered in Sri Lanka at 10 a.m. 29 March 2020, according to the Epidemiology Unit (EU).
Consequent to these precautions, the number of COVID-19 deaths, after the seventh COVID death was recorded at 10 a.m. on 9 April 2020, in the 26-day period from 10 a.m. on 9 April 2020 to 4 May 2020, inclusive of both days, stagnated at seven.
Meanwhile, in the 37 days that lapsed since Sri Lanka registered the first COVID death as at 10 a.m. on 29 March 2020 to 4 May 2020, inclusive of both days, the COVID fatality rate averaged at a miserly 0.19 deaths per diem.
Sri Lanka partially reopened its borders on 28 December 2020 to Ukrainian tourists only, before fully reopening its borders on 21 January 2021. Previously, Sri Lanka closed its borders on 17 March 2020 as a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic from imported contacts.
As at 10 a.m. on 28 December 2020, the number of COVID deaths registered was 191, translating to 0.69 deaths per diem in the 275 days from 10 a.m. on 29 March 2020, when the first COVID death was registered in the island, inclusive of both days.
However, in the 25 days that elapsed from 10 a.m. on 28 December 2020 since Sri Lanka partially reopened its borders and up to 10 a.m. on 21 January 2021, when it fully re-opened its borders, the number of COVID deaths per diem accelerated to 3.32, with the island recording 83 COVID deaths during the review period, taking up the total fatality tally up to 274 then, since the first COVID death was recorded at 10 a.m. on 29 March 2020.
Meanwhile, since the country fully re-opened its borders on 21 January 2021 and in the 85-day period that had elapsed from 10 a.m. on 21 January 2021 to 10 a.m. on 11 April 2021, the country registered 322 more COVID deaths, at a further accelerated rate of 3.98 fatalities per diem.
As at 10 a.m. on 11 April 2021, the island’s total COVID death rate stood at 596.
The island went into a ‘total’ 51-day lockdown from 21 March 2020 to 10 May 2020, signified by implementing a countrywide curfew at 3 p.m. from 21 March 2020. On 11 May 2020 this lockdown was partially lifted.
As aforementioned, up to 28 December 2020 Sri Lanka had suffered 191 COVID deaths at the rate of 0.67 deaths per diem in the 283 days that had elapsed from10 a.m. on 21 March 2020 to 10 a.m. on 28 December 2020, inclusive of both days.
It may therefore be seen that the COVID death rates accelerated since the country partially and/or fully re-opened its borders, indicating that the reason behind this acceleration in COVID deaths since 28 December 2020 was due to imported COVID cases, in the form of tourists, entering the country.
Therefore, there is a need to increase Sri Lanka’s border controls to arrest this trend. The solution to combat COVID is not border closures, but proper border controls to prevent tourists infected with COVID entering the island.
Border closures have severe economic repercussions in the backdrop that tourism is Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner.
Locals too, should ‘keep their distance’ this Avurudu and observe other safety measures, such as wearing the face-mask properly in public places, to prevent the spread of this pandemic from this quarter.