Sri Lanka completely shuts down

Written by S.Shiva (Sri Lankan Reporter) 

Image by Patrick Fransoo

Sri Lanka completely shuts down under curfew. At approximately 9:00 am on Friday the 20th 2020, the Sri Lankan government has announced that a curfew will come into effect from 6:00 pm today till 6:00 am on Monday for the whole country. The order was given on heels of a three-day holiday for the country, from Tuesday and ending Friday, to detect Coronavirus-infected patients. The order allows for the movement of essential service people; such as state medical personnel, security personnel and harbour workers; and the travel of persons who need to visit a doctor or hospital. However, proof of identity will need to be shown.

Photo by Thushal Madhushankha

The announcement for the country-wide curfew came out of left field for most of the population who were not kept fully and promptly updated on the situation by the state. The Coronavirus curfews began initially when they were introduced in the Puttalam, Chilaw and Negombo districts on Wednesday at 5:00 pm. It was only confirmed today that a significant number of Coronavirus patients were found in these areas. This initial curfew was halted temporarily between 8:00 am to 2:00 pm on Thursday. At 10:00 pm in the night, an additional announcement was released that the Colombo suburbs of Wattalaand Ja-ela were also under curfew until further notice – along with the existing areas under curfew, surprising Colombo residents. No further information was released. However, on speaking with a resident of these suburbs, it was found that there were more patients found in the Ja Ela and Wattala area.

Despite this, the initial curfews were not considered to be very surprising as the affected areas were closely adjoining the Bandaranaike International Airport, and hence receive many foreign visitors. However, no-one expected the entire country to go into a full-scale lockdown with just a half day’s warning. Though some were able to detect the pattern of intensity in the disease’s

Photo by Claudia Gschwend

spread through comparison with the rest of the world, and chose to stock up earlier for what might possibly become a long month of staying in, many just considered the earlier three-day nationwide holiday a vacation to go shopping for daily groceries, clothes and things for the upcoming New Year next month. Some didn’t even shop for more than their daily necessities. Though there were a few basic items (such as flour, yeast, soya meat, etc) missing off the supermarket shelves over the past few days, most things were still available till yesterday. Butonce the curfew was announced this morning, the streets became extremely busy with panic buying shoppers. Queues overflowed at Lanka Sathosa branches, a state-owned large-scale supermarket chain that usually has the cheapest prices overall.  

For many of the lower income families in Sri Lanka, shopping at Sathosa to stock up was a no-brainer as they could not afford to purchase at the other supermarkets which have slightly higher prices. Bread ran out in all the bakeries as people bought extras for the shut-in weekend.  

In addition to raising fears regarding the actual situation on the Coronavirus spread, the lock-down also promises to be a trying experience for the day wage earners; including three-wheeler and taxi drivers, construction workers, tea estate workers, tea estate workers, delivery men, and other such blue collar workers; as they struggle to make ends meet with limited finances.