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Can Lockdowns stop the Spread of Coronavirus?

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Colombo Municipal Council Public Health Department officials conducted random PCR tests on people at the Fort Railway Station, Colombo. Some of the people undergoing the tests.Pic by Kamal Bogoda

There certainly seems to be a consensus in the media, and among political elites, that if there is another “outbreak” of the Coronavirus, then the “shelter in place” order will be the law of the land. “Shelter in place” is an official order, issued during an emergency, that directs people to stay in the indoor place or building that they already occupy, and not to leave unless absolutely necessary.

The present trend gaining momentum is that grocery stores and food companies are preparing for a possible surge in sales amid a new rise in Covid-19 cases.  Supermarkets are stockpiling groceries and storing them.  Food companies are accelerating production of their most popular items, and leaders across the industry are saying they will not be caught unprepared in the face of another pandemic surge.

One hardly can blame business owners and managers for wanting to be ahead of the curve, as governments at all levels have been merciless to businesses and employees, driving thousands of firms into bankruptcy and leaving millions of people unemployed. Furthermore, given the overt hostility that governments have toward private enterprise, politicians will take shortages and empty shelves as “proof” that private enterprise is in league with the devil to subvert the social order, and act accordingly to punish these miscreants.

First and foremost, it should be understood that locking down most of the population is at best a very temporary strategy. Even the economic consequences of quarantining a majority of business enterprises and shutting down their workplaces – the lockdown strategy – does little to combat the spreading of the virus, since it gives people no chance to build up immunities, which is the key to stopping it.

 

Boosting immunity

The health authorities should focus on boosting immunity through exercise, fresh air, sunlight, proper dietary supplementation, and the promotion of general well-being. Instead our politicians, bureaucrats, and media insist on business lockdowns, school closures, distancing, isolation, masks, and the mirage of a fast, effective vaccine.

The problem is that the virus is not going to disappear.  Even if one temporarily prevents its spread by shuttering people in their homes, sooner or later people will have to mingle, and when they do, their bodies will not be conditioned to fight it, and as a result the infection rate certainly will increase. In fact, that is what we have seen so far, as we have lockdowns followed by relaxation of the rules, followed by a surge of new infections. That surge then leads to panic in the media and among the political classes, with the new “solution” being – even more lockdowns.

One would think that this seemingly endless cycle of lockdown-relaxation-lockdown would lead the authorities to rethink their strategies, but that is not the case; and this willful blindness is not limited to Sri Lankan Politicians. We see governments in Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand, and elsewhere reverting to lockdowns after an increase in new infections.

Looking at the world, we see that the infection rate in Sweden is clearly falling in comparison to the infection rates of countries that have followed strict lockdown procedures. To a casual observer, it made sense to think that over the past eight months, if the mainstream “experts” were correct, Sweden would be a basket case, as Swedes have carried on with their lives—usually not wearing face coverings—in a way that would seem to be an open invitation to mass spreading of Covid-19.

Moreover, if the media is to be believed, Swedes should be dying in record numbers. We see none of that happening, yet the “Sweden-must-lock-down-or-else” narrative continues to dominate the news.

Rather than imposing a hard lockdown in March as other countries did, the Scandinavian nation relied on individual responsibility to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. This is the idea of accentuating on the common sense of the people — and the approach made headlines at the time. Gyms, stores and restaurants remained open; schools were open for kids up to age 16; while gatherings of more than 50 people were banned.

Authorities predicted that 40% of the people in Stockholm would get the disease and develop protective antibodies by May. The actual prevalence, however, was around 15%, according to the study published on 11th August 2020 in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

 

The Economic Aspect

Then there is the economic side. For the most part, progressives have framed the economic damage as a necessary “sacrifice” in order to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control.  Progressivism is a political philosophy in support of social reform.  Contemporary progressives promote public policies that they believe will lead to positive social change.

If we should have learned anything in the past eight months, it should be that massive lockdowns impose huge costs and dubious benefits. The progressive notion that we can just close businesses, religious places, sports venues, and other offices—the unemployed being compensated with printed money—until someone develops the magic vaccination, and not suffer huge consequences. The financial and emotional stresses that come from lockdowns are harmful to both physical and mental health, and the evidence is all around us.

 

Political Class benefits

from Lockdowns

We have to understand that the political classes and their media have a vested interest in the lockdown status quo, and that includes regular provision of what can only be called disinformation.

As for politicians, the Covid crisis has been a godsend for those governmental executives and bureaucrats who see constitutional restrictions that limit their authority, as mere obstacles to be easily swept away. 

Governments often create crises or, at the very least, they manipulate events such as natural disasters, and use them as opportunities to expand governmental powers. Even after the crisis ends, governments keep some of their newly self-granted powers—and most people raise little or no concern even when the government has curtailed more of their freedoms.

 

Second-Wave Lockdowns

miscarry usefulness.

We know how the “second wave” lockdowns will end. At some point, with the economy of the country in shambles, the authorities will gradually lift some of the restrictions while demanding that people “voluntarily” engage in mask wearing and social distancing. Not long after the rules are relaxed, there inevitably will be a new surge of infections, as people who have been long separated come together without having built up their immune systems.

With no other options and because the governing classes have declared lockdowns to be the only way to defeat the virus, there almost surely will be Lockdown III, where the regime can get away with it. Whether the political classes here follow the same plan is very much an open question. We know beforehand that quarantining healthy people actually makes the long-term infection picture worse, and that the starting and stopping of the economy wreaks havoc on its own.

 

Conclusion

In the end, we only can conclude that shutting down much of social and business interaction, restricting worship services, and closing schools is ineffective in stopping viral infections, be they from the Covid-19 virus or some other pathogen. However, we also must conclude that ordering massive restrictions has become a winning political strategy. We also should understand that Covid-19 is not the last pandemic that will hit the world, and when a new pandemic—or even a hint of one—arises, the political classes will be in the forefront.

Despite the persistent myth that governance is about “solving problems” and “serving the people,” it is the rare person in governmental power these days who does not seek power for the sake of power itself. Those who use power to push progressive policies can be expected to receive positive media coverage, even if their policies are disastrous.

A Quote to Ponder : The great Frenchman Honoré de Balzac wrote, “Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.” ’

 

ZULKIFI NAZIM

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Opinion

Duel with Dual Citizenship

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The 20A almost failed to get passed through because President Gotabaya wanted the ban on dual citizens holding the highest offices binned. A worry that was not there before the 19A has now become a passionate concern.

Interestingly, the very people who opposed the 20A (from the Government side) were the very ones who wanted Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s President. When he was persuaded to run for presidency he was a dual citizen. Throughout the presidential campaign he was a dual citizen. He only renounced his US citizenship just a few months before the elections.

Yet, his dual citizenship was not a concern to any who supported his ascent to presidency. His opposition – the Yahapalana Government, certainly tried their level best to use Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship against him. This was laughable and only served to discredit them further.

Hypocrisy and Vindictive Politics

After all, having appointed a foreigner as the Central Bank Governor, their worry over a dual citizen cannot be taken seriously. The Yahapalana Government on blind faith co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka. After thus caving into US pressure so treacherously, to anticipate such a move from Gotabaya Rajapaksa was hypocritical. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration risked antagonizing our neighbour by politely sitting on the ECTA. The Yahapalana Government, on the other hand, signed with flourish an FTA with Singapore that spelt doom for our trade, industries and manpower.

Clearly, the Yahapalana Government’s concerns over dual citizenship were not genuine. The sole objective was to prevent two of the Rajapaksa brothers from contesting at the presidential elections. This is the point that President Gotabaya directed the attention of his MPs and clergy. He noted that the clause on dual citizenship stemmed from vindictiveness. Therefore, the principle on which this is based on is unacceptable and on that basis the clause needs to be rejected.

However, he assured, at the ongoing exercise of making the new constitution, genuine concerns over dual citizenship can be revisited and the ban can be re-imposed. Clearly, no one in the Government could reject this irrefutable logic and so supported the 20A.

Now that the Government MPs have supported the 20A with the intention of repelling this clause from the new constitution, they have an important task ahead of them. That is, to genuinely analyze the real reason to oppose dual citizens in high offices. The clause was removed because the principle in which it was introduced was corrupt. Then, they cannot re-introduce it on a corrupt principle of their own. That is, their decision cannot be influenced by the effect this would have on Basil Rajapaksa.

Pros and Cons of Dual Citizens

Many unfairly equate dual citizens to the Tamil Diaspora. While some of the Tamil Diaspora may be dual citizens, not all dual citizens are part of the Tamil Diaspora. Therefore, to take a decision on a whole group based on the reservations against some in that group is wrong.

On the whole, one million Sri Lankan expatriates (in which group a subset are dual citizens) remit USD 7 billion annually. As was pointed out by an FB post, when we travel overseas, Sri Lankan expatriates (who may hold dual citizenship) host and save us from food and lodging expenses. Sometimes they even chauffeur us around, saving us from our transport expenses. They send us fancy goods or essential items not available in Sri Lanka. They also fight in our stead with their host governments.

Furthermore, the Yahapalana era attests to the frightening aspect that the physical presence of the Tamil Diaspora is not needed to carry out its separatist agenda in Sri Lanka. Therefore, simply banning dual citizens from becoming leaders or decision-makers alone is not enough. We need to include the matter of foreign funding and influence into this debate.

In the US, it is not enough to be a citizen to hold a high office like the presidency. One must be born in that country as well. However, our best brains are draining out of SL to end up in the US. So, naturally the US can be picky where as it is not clear if SL can afford the same luxury.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a case in point. Certainly he became the Defense Secretary because his big brother was the then President. However, nepotism may secure the job but keeping the job is up to the individual. Gotabaya Rajapaksa not only justified the appointment by defeating the LTTE, but also proved himself as an administrator with a vision with his urban development projects. Today he is the President of SL all on his own merit.

The bottom line is, as a Colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa outperformed the Generals in the same Army he served. The Generals before Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration too received political support to defeat the LTTE. Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defense Secretary managed to convince President Mahinda that Sri Lanka was on the winning path. Had he failed, then the political will of that administration too would have waned.

In the 10 years in the US, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in an environment where he met intellectuals and academics from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis. Coupled with the Sri Lankan Army’s “nothing is impossible” motto, he had developed an attitude to think “outside the box” (a phrase he uses frequently).

It is clear that an outstanding officer had returned home as an exceptional human being. He is however not an isolated case. Many Sri Lankans returning home have undergone this transformation.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that as dual citizens these individuals have pledged their allegiance to another country. Interestingly, as natives we have never pledged a similar allegiance to our own country. This natural bond one forms with his birth country that defines him and his loyalty to his adopted country that caters to his comforts would be a very difficult one to gauge.

Loyalty is one that can only be proven with action and time and can be fickle at the most unexpected moment. This makes the question of loyalty so serious and significant that it pales all pros of a dual citizen. Decisions of leaders affect the whole nation. Therefore, we must be without a reasonable doubt on the integrity of prospective candidates – whether they be dual citizens or not. In the question of dual citizenship, however, it is important that our leaders and decision makers should not have an escape route from the effects of their own decisions.

It is thus hoped that our own lawmakers, intellectuals, academics and other analysts and opinion-makers would initiate this debate in earnest. It would of course help the country that if this debate was engaged with an open mind. If the participants enter the debate with a preconceived opinion, and interpret facts from that perspective then this would become a lost cause.

SHIVANTHI RANASINGHE

 

 

 

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Opinion

Croc skins for Prado

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Soon after the Cabinet decided to ban cow slaughter, Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, announced, at a meeting in Galle, the idea of a crocodile farm. Its purpose will be to breed crocodiles to be slaughtered, for their exotic hides to be exported to upmarket European stores, as Prado and Gucci, to manufacture footwear and handbags.

I am sure that croc meat will be  popular among East Asian gourmets, both here and further east.

If and when this farm is established, we can cease calling ourselves a Buddhist country.

 TD

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Opinion

Dear Pompeo… don’t bully a small nation

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Welcome to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka welcomes you with its warm smiles and hearts, the hallmark of our people. The respect, welcome and hospitality Sri Lanka has shown to all nations for 1000s of years is extended to you, too. It is the same open and generous welcome that legends from distant history, like Fa Hein, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, enjoyed and gushed about on this island of plenty.

We hope and pray your visit will be one of genuine efforts by the US to normalize and strengthen relations with a strong, democratically elected government, and a President with an unprecedented mandate. You are truly dealing with the most powerful government Sri Lanka has ever seen. It’s no secret that our relations had been soured by lies, mistrust, accusations, deceptions and perjury by parties hostile to Sri Lanka. These interested parties have sullied Sri Lanka’s name, muddied the waters, and our relations have suffered. We have enjoyed friendly, cordial relations with mutual respect for years, before the mischief-makers have almost broken it down. We fervently hope your visit is a sign of the strengths of our relationship surfacing again, against the forces that try to divide us; and with your visit, we will be able to reset our relations once again to what it was, and what it should be.

The goverment is the representative of the people, and as such please deal with the government accordingly. With respect and honesty. With no preconceived biases. Do not be distracted by the side actors, like NGOs, LTTE reps, Media, etc. Even some official organizations, like the UN, CNN, BBC and some US organization/foreign offices, have been infiltrated by LTTE supporters who are detrimental to Sri Lanka and its sovereignty. They have become their mouthpieces, churning out untruth after untruth. They are loud and noisy on the world stage. But they are small and insignificant, and have NO representation here. Though their malicious campaign has sullied our name, we stand strong and tall as a people of a peace loving and democratic nation. That is our history and heritage, long before these lofty words were coined. Please do not hold over Sri Lanka, these unsubstantiated malicious blatant lies to man-handle or force us.

It is said you are coming here to force us to choose between you and another country. Please don’t give us choices. Choices we don’t want, nor have we to make. All countries are important to us. The quarrels and feuds between other countries are not our concern. We wish to stay as far away from them as possible. As such, please do not force them on us. Respect our desire to remain neutral and friends with both the US and China. These feuds are short-lived and transient in global politics. Soviet leaning India, which fiercely opposed our close friendship with America in the seventies and eighties, is your best mate now. But back then, India went to the extent of making and supporting the world’s most ruthless terror group, LTTE, to browbeat and decimate Sri Lanka, because they did not condone our capitalist path different to theirs! But today India has come full circle to join us.

Today, Sri Lanka recognizes its regional importance. New geopolitical forces are active in the region. New economic trends are blowing. We will manage and navigate these. With no harm to any, and benevolence to all. The true Hela, or Sri Lankan way. The 2500 years or more of history will tell you, that’s how we have been in the past, and we will continue to be so.

You come as a representative of the American people. Who they are represented by, Trump or Biden, we do not care. Either will have our support, because they represent the people of America. I’m sure theirs is not the wish to bully a small nation to their own selfish benefit. Hope your people’s lofty ideals of freedom, democracy and fair play will transcend beyond their shores with your visit.

CITIZEN S

 

 

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