Keshini Jayawardena Interview about the impact of COVID in Sri Lanka
We've been talking about how COVID has impacted on our colleagues in the UK but we have colleagues based around the globe who may well have had a different experience of the pandemic and we wanted to highlight what coronavirus might have looked and felt like around the world. Our associate Keshini Jayawardena, who is based in Sri Lanka took some time to answer a few questions.
1) Tell us what it has been like living and working in Sri Lanka through the pandemic?
The start of the pandemic was crazy in Sri Lanka as we went into complete "curfew" lockdown - not allowed out of our homes for 2 1/2 months with no idea of when it would end. Grocery stores were not geared up for online delivery, and we ended up waiting for trucks to come to our neighbourhoods with food and supplies - the bread truck, the chicken truck, the fish truck, the vegetable seller. In many ways it reminded me of the Ceylon of my childhood, igniting memories of when such provision sellers would come down the lanes pushing wheelbarrows and calling out their wares and my grandmother buying whatever we would eat that day.
2) What has been the biggest challenge/obstacle to life during COVID?
The biggest challenge for me has been being cut off from meeting other people easily - my elder relatives, in particular and friends in general. The other has been the inability to travel overseas, again very much about connecting with friends and family, so many of whom are away.
3) How did you respond to it and what have you've learned about yourself during this time?
I have found ways to be even more connected than before! I now have a regular video call with my grade school friends, my university friends and my ex-colleagues from all over the world - as we all discovered ZOOM, and all found ourselves at home with more free time to schedule calls. Previously we would meet every few years, if at all, for "reunions" - now we are reconnected on a regular and intimate level.
I have also found a great joy at being at home, leading a quieter less rushed existence, and enjoying my own company. I realise how lucky I am and am grateful, as many around me are so adversely impacted by the effect of the pandemic on their livelihoods, their children’s schooling, their health, their isolation.
4) How has the country changed during the pandemic?
While the country has overall handled the pandemic reasonably well in terms of controlling the spread of the virus (though one can never know what is around the corner), for the large majority of Sri Lankans the lockdowns, the impact to daily wage earners, the destruction of the tourism and retail industries has created real hardship and has brought the country's economy to its knees.
5) What do you think the future looks like for the country in the next 2-3 years and beyond?
Unless we can get enough vaccines to safely open up our borders for tourism and ease industry, the country is teetering on the brink of a disastrous economic and financial failure. And while we are inherently resilient having come through over 30 years of civil unrest, terrorism and civil war, we have never had to contend with the whole world also going through such disruption. We can only hope that a way of living with Covid-19 can be found sooner than later. And hope that we can find that positive attitude and resourcefulness to get through this, all of us together.