While the pandemic is very much a major ongoing issue outside our shores, within Sri Lanka, much has been done to prevent Covid-19 from becoming a critical issue in terms of infections and case numbers. While the lockdown and the overall suddenness of it threw communities and businesses into turmoil, in terms of actually contracting the disease, we have felt fairly safe in the last few weeks.
The lack of inbound infections made it easier for us to start getting back to our daily lives, with the new cases being reported among Navy personnel or returnees from overseas who were being safely quarantined on arrival.
However, this was last week, until a new cluster of Covid-19 infections was discovered. With each new case reported, feelings of anxiety increase, and some of the main questions on everyone’s mind are: What happens next? Does this mean we’re facing a second wave? Are we headed for a second lockdown?
Thoughts on a second lockdown
A second lockdown is a thought that fills most of us with dread. While the previous lockdown has in many ways prepared and given us an idea of what to expect, this doesn’t mean it will be any easier to endure again.
For businesses, interrupting or readjusting operations once again can become a serious matter. For many in the leisure industries like eateries, business was just beginning to pick up. With many still facing very low footfall, a second lockdown would hamper progress even further, and for many, it could even mean shutting down completely.
The Sunday Morning Brunch reached out to gather a few general views on facing a second wave of Covid-19 and potentially another lockdown.
Schoolchildren are a serious concern, with the school year already having been interrupted once. The Royal Institute in Colombo has been very committed to minimising the impacts of the pandemic on education. A representative from the school commented on the possibility of a second lockdown.
“Students as well as parents soon embraced and adapted to this new experience, as it would be the new normalcy for quite some time. Hence, Royal Institute International Schools (RI) believe that a potential second lockdown would not make it harder for students and parents, as they have already adapted to it with much confidence in the school’s commitment.
“The students are well accustomed to the ‘virtual classroom’ after facing the lockdown as a result of the first wave. As a provider in primary and secondary education, we have looked into the aspect of pastoral care, especially by making arrangements to accommodate one-on-one interactions with the students. Moreover, as a responsible education provider, RI has taken necessary actions to educate students and parents on dealing with the situation from social, educational, as well as emotional perspectives.”
However, for parents, particularly those whose children are very young, a lockdown comes with challenges other than simply adapting to online learning. Anupama Nawalage, who works in higher education, shared: “As a working mother with two children under five years old, balancing home and work keeps me busy, even while working from home. The main concern now is that inevitable second wave and the challenges to come.
“In March, we started the new quarantine homeschooling routine, mostly with multiple daily tantrums, frequent distractions, and the house becoming a war zone. Like many other parents, I have had to deal with working from home, having to take on the role of an educator to the kids as well.
“Overall though, I feel the children are pretty good at coping with the situation too. As adults, we can still call our friends, work virtually, and connect with our colleagues daily. But for the kids, everything came to a stop; they have been affected the most and are unfortunately about to go through it again.”
Entrepreneur and body-positivity advocate Ranjula Herath shared that a second lockdown doesn’t feel entirely feasible. “I feel like we were just adjusting to the new normal, but what to expect now seems so uncertain. I feel certain social distancing becomes difficult based on the nature of work too and the Government needs to seriously address how things can be better for everyone if we are to live with a pandemic in the long term.”
A huge amount of concern surrounds what this could mean economically, highlighted communications professional Ruwedi Wakwella. “I’m concerned (about) the impact a second wave could have on the economy, particularly small and family-run businesses. Without support from the Government, most families will either be reduced to single incomes or lose any income they get, and that can have lasting impacts. It’s easy to close down buildings and factories and tell people to stay home but to a vendor whose entire income is dependent on his or her corner shop, that can have devastating consequences.”
Amreeya Mowlana, who works in the gem and jewellery industry, shared that a positive outlook is the most important thing to maintain. She stated: “Covid-19 is here to stay for some time, and there’s most likely going to be many waves going back and forth. We just need to look at all this change positively. Simply said, if there is a will, there is a way. Everyone just needs to find alternative and smarter ways of doing things. Always remember to stay positive, have an open mind, and keep moving forward.”
Some feel that we only have ourselves to blame, a sentiment shared by designer, home cook, and freelance writer Charindi Meegastenna. “I personally feel that if a second wave does come, it’s due to our gross negligence of regulations and lack of common sense. The frontlines are working overtime, with many still having to go to work regardless (myself included). But still, the moment things got better, my feed was bombarded with people going out unnecessarily, not wearing masks, and going on long-distance trips visiting friends. We were lax. It’s outrageous how the biggest excuse was ‘it’s only in the quarantine centres noh? It’s all good’. Well, look where we are now.”
Meegastenna went on to comment on the consequences a second lockdown could bring, saying: “Businesses are already badly hurt. People have faced pay cuts and lost their jobs. If a second wave does come, businesses that had to dock pay will have to fire people or even close down completely.
“The possible influx of infected people will create bigger issues for our medical staff and they will be more overworked than ever before, not to mention the toll on the armed forces and supermarket employees. All I can say is it is so important not to be selfish. Forget Instagramming cocktails; make one at home and watch Game of Thrones.”
Coming to terms with a second wave on an emotional level
The Sunday Morning Brunch reached out to clinical psychologists Dr. Suhaila Shafeek Irshard and Roshan Dhammapala for insight into ways to handle this uncertain time on an emotional level, particularly in the face of the second wave of Covid-19 infections and another potential lockdown.
Dr. Irshard shared that there is a lot of anxiety surrounding the possibility of a second lockdown. The fact that a lockdown has happened before can help mitigate some of this anxiety for some because logistical concerns like sorting out groceries and getting things organised are now easier. This clarity regarding aspects like logistics, however, does not mean that it will be easier or harder.
Dhammapala explained how people’s response to such situations is very specific to both the personality and circumstances of an individual. Some will be very anxious going into lockdown while others may be less concerned. This has a lot to do with individual resources and the safety of home environments.
A large part of coping with a second lockdown would also depend on what individuals have taken away from the first lockdown; sometimes crises can help grow new skills, and through that, a sense of resilience. Conversely, having been through a lockdown already can make it more difficult to go into one a second time around, particularly if it means loss of income or being trapped in an unsafe environment.
Another emotion that may be felt is that of anger, either the inconvenience or repercussions of having to go into lockdown again or anger at the situation not being taken seriously enough the first time round to avoid a situation like this once again. Dr. Irshard explained that when processing feelings of anger, it is very important to find healthy ways to do so, particularly if you are in lockdown, because letting out these feelings unhealthily can affect those around you just as badly as it can affect you.
In terms of dealing with uncertainty, Dr. Irshard explained that in uncertain situations, it is important to focus on what can be managed and controlled and use that to your advantage. Dhammapala also commented on uncertainty, sharing that it can be very tiring when you keep trying to find clarity – shifting away from the need to be certain, finding ways to come to terms with being comfortable can help navigate through situations like these, and avoiding being put in the position of constantly trying to reach a solution that may be out of reach.
When dealing with children, Dr. Irshard stressed the importance of talking to children about what is happening and remembering that children feel the same things adults do. By talking to children in a way they can understand and process, it will be easier for children to respond to situations like another lockdown and the challenges that will bring.
In general, both Dhammapala and Dr. Irshard agreed that the reactions to a second lockdown will vary greatly from person to person. Some will adapt better than others, but adaptation will happen. The ability of the human race to adapt to unknown and varying situations is what has brought us to where we are today. The Covid-19 pandemic is something else that we need to adapt to, and by being mindful and being positive, there is every chance that we will overcome this too.
It’s important to seek support when overwhelmed, whether it is from friends or family or from external sources. There are myriad services available for those in need of support and mental health intervention, from free counselling and support-oriented phone lines to mental health professionals.