A welcome move | Daily News


 

A welcome move

The decision taken by the authorities to reopen schools countrywide next month and the likelihood of churches and other places of worship too following suit no doubt is a sure indication that things are fast returning to normal and the worst is behind us vis-à-vis the Coronavirus pandemic.

Higher Education Minister Dullas Alahapperuma on Tuesday announced that schools will reopen in July in stages and dates too have been fixed to hold the delayed examinations. This no doubt will also be encouraging news for the school van services which collapsed due to the school closure. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is to meet religious leaders to decide on reopening all places of religious worship and resuming religious festivities.

This follows a request made by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who, during Sunday mass, requested the Government to permit the resumption of holy mass in churches subject to the prevailing restrictions. This would mean a limited congregation and scaling down of other practices and religious rites in keeping with the distance rule.

Ideally all religious observances should not be subjected to any restrictions or taboos of any form since places of religious worship are patronized by the faithful for spiritual nourishment. However, the prevailing health emergency necessitated Holy Mass and religious observances to be of a restricted nature like most other activities hitherto taken for granted.

It is in this backdrop that one fails to comprehend the unfolding scenario before one’s own eyes where in most instances the restrictions currently in force are observed with callous disregard and utter distain, with the law enforcement too in certain instances guilty in this regard.

The skirmish that took place on Tuesday between a group of protesters and the police is a classic instance where all health guidelines were thrown overboard. Television showed a group protesting against the killing of African-American George Floyd in the US waging running battles with the police who were seen furiously grappling with protesters, most of them sans the regulation face masks.

A similar scenario was witnessed during a protest staged at UNP headquarters Sirikotha where groups were seen almost shoulder to shoulder in a clear violation of social distancing rules. Given this state of affairs, it may not serve any purpose to continue restraints imposed on places of worship which are houses of prayer and reverence. There were other areas too where the restrictions should not have applied wherein people’s livelihoods were at stake particularly the film and entertainment industry and certain sports where body contact is inevitable.

Be that as it may, with the Coronavirus threat now on the wane there is a need for the country to refocus itself on ways of rebuilding itself from the damage caused, particularly to the economy by the state of paralysis during the countrywide lockdown. With the election day to be announced, there will be a tendency to forget the more immediate need in the hustle and bustle and the rhetoric that would ensue during a national poll.

There are many who have lost their livelihoods due to the closure of some establishments and businesses while others went without their monthly salaries or survived on part wages. The Government will be called upon to assist those enterprises that shut down or partially closed down to get back on their feet. With the economy the way it stands it will be a difficult task indeed for the Government to tide over the present situation. The tourism industry is one area that cries out for a massive revival after the heavy beating it took as a result of closure of the country to foreigners, just as it was recovering from the fallout of the Easter 2019 tragedy. An emergency plan is what is needed to put the tourism industry back on track.

On the other hand the Coronavirus also brought in its wake many positives, if one may call them in that manner, particularly in inculcating discipline and healthy lifestyles among the community. Barring a few aberrations of the type mentioned above, people have largely learnt to maintain a safe distance and avoid congregating in large numbers which is a surefire way of contracting any viral disease, Coronavirus included.

Buses and trains are no longer packed like sardines and people travel somewhat comfortably in public transport. Hotels and eateries are no longer overcrowded, made to abide by the health regulations in force. Offices and workplaces have managed without regular staff with many people getting used to working from home during the lockdown period. The Galle Face Green that essential ingredient that gave Colombo City the moniker Garden City of Asia, reverted to its pristine verdant quality during the lockdown period. Hopefully President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is identified with the beatifying project of Colombo city when he was Secretary Ministry of Urban Development would ensure the Galle Face Green retains its quality making it a strictly a children’s park and recreation facility. The Coronavirus gave the environment some breathing space and we should keep it that way.


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