The Enemy Within

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2020

The Information Department on Wednesday announced that curfew in the totality of the Gampaha District has been imposed from 10 p.m. on that day Wednesday, to  5 a.m. on Monday, a total of four days and seven hours, as a prevention measure to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Additionally,, Government of Sri Lanka’s official website yesterday announced that ‘quarantine curfew’ has been imposed in the Police jurisdictions of Mattakkuliya, Modera (Mutwal), Bloemendhal, Grandpass and Wellampitiya. These five areas come under Colombo North. Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, who also chairs GoSL’s ‘National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID - 19 Outbreak’ told this newspaper yesterday that no timeframe has been set as yet to lift the curfew in those areas of Colombo North, where it was imposed yesterday. He further said that nine villages in the Kalutara District have been isolated to prevent the spread of this pandemic. 

Additionally, the Foreign Ministry in Colombo yesterday announced the suspension of all services offered by its Consular Affairs Division until further notice, to restrict the congregation of the public and thereby to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 Virus, it said.

Accordingly, the Consular Affairs Division situated at Ceylinco Building, Colombo will remain closed for visitors, including exporters who visit the Division for attestation of export documents, until further notice, the Ministry said. Document attestation services will also not be offered by both the regional consular offices in Matara and Jaffna, until further notice, it added. For queries related to death cases of Sri Lankans overseas and death-related documentation assistance, the Ministry gave certain telephone numbers as contact points.

 However, the Board of Investment (BoI) yesterday said that despite the curfew in Gampaha, operations of BoI industries, located within the Gampaha District, will continue without any interruption during the curfew imposed period. The functions of companies in the Katunayaka, Biyagama, Wathupitiwala, Malwatta and Mirigama Export processing zones, located in Gampaha, are expected to continue production while strictly adhering to the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, the BoI said.

 “In addition to the aforesaid zones, BoI registered factories located outside the zones too will function ‘accordingly,” it said. The BoI is in the process of issuing the required curfew passes as per the instructions found on the BOI website, it further said.

Meanwhile, GoSL’s Registrar of Companies, (RoC) located in Colombo, on 18 October announced that RoC will provide only ‘limited essential public services’ due to COVID-19 beginning from 19 October. In the same breath RoC said that it will be closed to the public from 8 October until further notice. However, from 19 October, it will be open from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., it added. Though the RoC didn’t say, it may be presumed that this GoSL establishment will be open for those limited hours only on working days.

The beginning of this second wave of COVID-19 which has caused these new restrictions may be traced to the Minuwangoda Brandix Garment factory, where one of its workers first tested COVID-19 positive on 3 October. 

Deputy Labour Commissioner Poshitha Dabare said that a report in this regard will be out next week. He said that food for this report can be culled only after speaking to the ‘Brandix people’ in question who will be coming out of quarantine by then. He said that their report will be balanced taking into account both the ‘physical health of the nation’ as well as its ‘economic health.’  Considering the economic aspect, in the context that Brandix is one of Sri Lanka’s prime foreign exchange earners, nonetheless, whether the company violated labour laws or not can be garnered only after interviewing the Brandix stakeholders in particular the 3 October case, he said.

The key question for the GoSL is to ‘know your enemy’. 

In the backdrop of COVID-19, that enemy is not an individual or a group of individuals, or a particular company or companies or a country or countries, but the COVID-19 Virus.

Whilst combating this unseen foe, it would do well for GoSL to minimise ‘collateral damage,’ which victims vis-à-vis the latter may be identified as its COVID-19 patients or suspected COVID-19 cases, followed by others and lastly commercial institutions/businessmen of this country, whether it be a corner store or a pavement vendor, to large export houses. 

In tandem with GoSL’s COVID-19 war, it should ensure that the law is equitable to all. Then only can COVID-19 be overcome and the health and well-being of the people of this country and also of its economy,  assured.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2020

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