Monday this newspaper reported that isolation restrictions in several areas of the Colombo and Gampaha districts were lifted at 5 a.m. on that day.
Borella, Wellampitiya, Colombo Fort and the Slave Island Police areas in the Colombo District were reopened. However the Wekanda Grama Niladhari Division (GND) in the Slave Island Police Area (PA) and the Wanathamulla GND in the Borella PA will continue to remain isolated, it said.
Meanwhile, isolation was lifted in two areas of the Gampaha District on Monday, namely the Ja-Ela and Kadawatha PAs. Nonetheless, five PAs in the Gampaha District continue to remain isolated until further notice, the report added. ‘Peliyagoda, Wattala, Ragama, Negombo and Kelaniya in the Gampaha District will continue to be isolated until further notice,’ the report said.
The news item quoting Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana also said that isolation restrictions would continue to be in effect in Mattakkuliya, Mutwal, Grandpass, Dematagoda, Bloemendhal, Foreshore, Kotahena, Aduruppu Veediya, Maligawatta, Keselwatta, Maradana, Pettah and Dam Street in the Colombo District.
‘Travel restrictions were imposed on Atalugama village, Bandaragama, located in the Kalutara District,’ it added.
This newspaper also reported on Monday that train services that were suspended over the weekend were to resume on Monday. That news item quoting Sri Lanka Station Masters’ Union (SLSMU) General Secretary Kasun Chamara said that 104 trains will operate as usual, but will not stop at stations located in areas which have been designated as isolated areas.
The stations where trains will not stop at are Maradana, Dematagoda, Kelaniya, Wanawasala, Horape, Ragama, Walpola and Batuwatta on the ‘main’ railway line and Peralanda, Kurana, Negombo and Kattuwa on the Puttalam Railway Line, it said.
Additionally, trains on the Kelani Valley Railway Line will not stop at the Baseline Road Railway Station, it added. The news item further quoting Chamara said that several new office trains will also be added in the coming days after considering the prevailing situation. However, long distance trains and parcel delivery services are currently not operating.
Nonetheless, the gradual opening up of geographical areas of the country previously locked down to check the spread of COVID-19 is the right thing that the Government has done. Otherwise, the masses will not die of COVID-19 but of starvation. This is in the context that a number of daily wage earners have been hit by lockdowns.
In respect of socio-economic data, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) released on Friday revealed some startling data. It said that the ‘population Undernourished’ was estimated at 22.1 per cent of the population.‘Share of Wealth Held by Bottom 20 per cent of the Population:’ A mere seven per cent, ‘Infant Mortality Rate (Between Age 0 (zero) and 1 (one) 0.82 per cent and ‘Dependents per 100 Independent Adults:’ 77 or 77 per cent, respectively.
That ADB report highlighted the risks on the indigent in particular, due to ‘climate change,’ a feature which could be as bad, if not worse than the threat posed by COVID-19 to the country from a socio-economic standpoint.
Further bad news was in store in respect of a report released, by Moody’s, a US-based credit rating agency, yesterday. It said that they expect Sri Lanka's economy to contract by more than three per cent in 2020 (this year), with prospects for a gradual rebound in 2021 (next year) increasingly at risk given renewed virus flare-ups and lockdown measures globally. This is in the context that Sri Lanka is no more an island, economically, having to be dependent on external trade for its survival.
Moody’s also said that Sri Lanka's debt burden is to increase to around 100 per cent of GDP over 2020-21, above the ‘Caa-‘ ( a junk credit rating) rated median of 88 per cent of GDP and will only begin to gradually decline in subsequent years.
Therefore, sooner the country opens up the better, from a socio-economic standpoint, as the lag effects of the first lockdown which originated in late March of this year and continued up to a little less than the end of the first half of May, made it worse for the masses, though far fewer COVID-19 casualties were reported then, compared to the second wave begun at the start of last month (October), as available economic data shows.