Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons?

A: If you compare both regional and global performances in containing the virus, our government – acting on the advice of public medical officials – has done demonstrably well. It was one of the first governments in the world to bring back locals stranded in an infected location; and ever since then, its course of conduct has been timely and effective.

The state protocol in tracking and monitoring suspected cases who arrived from overseas has been impressive as well. The treatment at the quarantine centres by the army and all other connected personnel is commendable.

If there’s to be a con, it is that there could have been more testing. If the state had been able to carry out both antigen and antibody testing at the point of going into quarantine, as well as at the point of leaving, we might have fared even better in controlling the pandemic.

If anything is certain at this time, it is that this rests entirely on the public’s ability to support the state response through disciplined physical distancing.

Q: In your view, how should the authorities balance the twin imperatives of safety and the economy?

A: It is paramount that authorities identify the crucial thrust sectors and industries necessary to uphold both domestic consumption and foreign exchange, and offer related enterprises the option to operate under certain regulations enforced by public health officials.

If a portion of the staff cadre is allowed to return to work, the state could permit private testing at this time, which could serve as a first screen for COVID-19. If an employee tests positive for an infection, the enterprise as well as the testing laboratory will be compelled to report it directly to the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) with the state taking the necessary steps thereafter.

This will ensure that the economy continues to run regardless of a lockdown with due caution for public health.

Q: How do you see the ‘new normal’ for business panning out?

A: COVID-19 has necessitated agility and flexibility among companies worldwide. In Sri Lanka, while many enterprises thought they had the technological capacity to weather the lockdown, there was an initial lack of preparedness.

Eventually however, the lockdown has forced both customers and enterprises to learn to trust and come to terms with online and technological platforms. For example, SMEs may have to embrace non-cash transactions and everyday groceries must be bought online.

Interestingly, the work from home (WFH) regime does not appear to have reduced productivity as previously thought. Moving forward and even under normal circumstances, it might be beneficial in the long run in terms of costs if offices worked rotational shifts for a third of their staff with WFH options. Working people will spend less time and money travelling to office – and offices will have less to spend on energy and maintenance, which could lead to improved productivity.

What can be said with some certainty is that if companies do not adapt to these changes and revert to their old standard of operations, they’ll not be able to deal with the next economic crisis – whatever it may be.

RESILIENCE AMID TURBULENT TIMES

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: From a pro-perspective, I admire the quick decision making and immediate lockdown measures, which saved many lives and put us on the right track. Moreover, the involvement of the military in this process provided additional validation for the…

SECURITY WILL BECOME MAINSTREAM

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: Compared to other nations, Sri Lanka, has undoubtedly made great progress. Among the positives are that people are confident, safe and more settled in facing the pandemic. If the situation had gone out of control at the early…

TOUGH DECISIONS ON EMPLOYMENT

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected Sri Lankan businesses across all sectors except perhaps agriculture, which has faced a minimal impact. Export oriented industries (many of which survive on revenue earned…

FOCUS ON ‘GLOBAL ORIENTATION’

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: While Sri Lanka has a low number of social safety nets for permanently vulnerable people such as the poor, disabled and elderly, COVID-19 has highlighted the need for a social net…

ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES MUST GO ON

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: At this juncture, COVID-19 seems invincible. However, while the global pandemic is unprecedented, Sri Lanka’s response has been a great success especially in managing the prevalence of infections. The positive factors are the synergy between important stakeholders in driving…

TRAVEL BUBBLES MAY BE A BOON

Q: How do you see the ‘new normal’ for business panning out? A: The new (hopefully temporary) normal is all about uncertainty given that we are in uncharted territory. There are two phases: the pre-vaccine phase supported by increasingly effective cures like remdesivir and the post-vaccine era. The post-vaccine era should mean that we return to…

PRINTING MONEY IS A NECESSARY EVIL

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: Sri Lanka’s response to the pandemic has been commendable. While we can all say what could have been done better with the benefit of hindsight, what’s important is that Sri Lanka has placed a greater value on lives…

LESSONS IN CRISIS PREPAREDNESS

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: I for one am of the opinion that our initial response to the islandwide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19 was admirable. Timely action enabled the authorities to properly quarantine overseas returnees and infected persons adequately. Apart…

PUBLIC HEALTH IS A PRIORITY

Q: In your view, how should the authorities balance the twin imperatives of safety and the economy? A: The COVID-19 pandemic has put us in a situation where we have to either prioritise public health and in turn sacrifice economic output, or prioritise the economy and sacrifice public health. Although this is unprecedented, public health…

THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: I think we have responded very well to the crisis as the lockdown has been effective from mid-March. In an unprecedented  situation like this, there is no blueprint for safeguarding the health of the nation while simultaneously keeping…

A COMMENDABLE PERFORMANCE

Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response so far? What are the pros and cons? A: The response from the government has been strong and consistent. Hard decisions were taken at certain junctures; and these decisions were consistently and swiftly implemented. As the crisis is unprecedented globally, there has been no blueprint or tried…

PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE BIZ MINDSET

Q: What is the outlook for jobs and employment in the medium term? And how should the authorities address the prospect of rising unemployment? A: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, several key industrial sectors including tourism, travel, hospitality, manufacturing and exports have been affected. This is not withstanding the numerous SMEs and micro-enterprise segments, as…
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