Sri Lanka’s Worst Economic Crisis

Sri Lanka, being a not-so-small island nation, has to depend on imports from various other countries for various essential commodities. But despite heavy imports, and some occasional instances of financial crisis, Sri Lanka managed to hold out its economy amid civil wars, natural disasters, and Government collapse. However, without a signal, the country has now plunged into a severe economic crisis, the worst till date, bringing the country’s economy on the verge of collapse.

Sri Lanka, the land of cinnamon and tea, is known for the export of tea and spices, and is also a major hub of tourism in Asia. The geography of Sri Lanka promotes fertile, flat lands towards the north, hilly interior, supports a great fishing industry, and has major ports between the west and the east. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka lacked big industrial regions like other developed nations, and that is why foreign debt is always a mounting pressure in the Sri Lankan economy. It’s 100% dependence on fuel oil from other countries has marked a severe fuel shortage in the country.

Covid-19 has a major role to play in crippling the Sri Lankan economy. Though the island never experienced huge surges of Covid-19 victims, its mainstay, the tourism industry suffered a huge setback, when the whole world went into lockdown. Though many African and South American countries opened up their doors to foreigners as the pandemic subsided, Sri Lanka remained virtually cut off from the tourism sector till date. Repeated lockdowns in the country, followed by economic crisis put both foreign and domestic tourists out of reach of famous tourist destinations in Sri Lanka.

Adding fuel to the fire were some Government policies that were taken hastily with little planning for the future. Some of them, like reduced taxation, and organic farming backfired as they were implemented overnight, without any backup plans. While the measures were really good, sudden change in taxation drained the Government Treasury, and replacing conventional farming with organic farming resulted in less productivity of crops. Sri Lanka’s reliance on China on port building has also backfired as its Hambantota port has been a commercial failure, prompting Chinese companies to take up the port business.

Till date, India has given almost 2 billion financial aid to Sri Lanka. India has donated essential items like rice and fuel to Sri Lanka so that common people may get themselves out of the crisis. More countries, including China, have come forward, and helped Sri Lanka regain their lost ground. However, the future of Sri Lanka is not looking bright with the whole Parliamentary cabinet except the President and the Prime Minister resigned.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Booster 3rd Dose – Why is It Essential?

Most countries around the world have started giving booster doses to already vaccinated people. Its entry into India slowed down due to the huge population. Giving 2 doses of vaccines to each of the Indian citizens was in itself a challenging task. Then there was a problem of giving conventional Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccines to children. Also, as most of the vaccines were given late, after the 2nd wave, the herd immunity for Covid-19 persisted amongst the masses. But now, at the turn of the new year, most vaccines have become ineffective due to ageing, and require a boost up using the 3rd dose. The beginning of the third wave, from the last week of December, sparked the 3rd dose vaccination drive for adults and the indigenous Covaxin drive for children.

The main question is, how are people getting affected after receiving two doses of vaccination. There can be two causes, one is that the vaccines are not effective against the new variants, and the other one is that the immunity due to the vaccine has gone down. The second cause is the most probable, as the vaccines are known to be effective against the new dominant strain, Omicron. A Lancet study has found that immunity against Covid-19 by Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine wanes after 3 months of receiving the 2nd dose. Researchers found that immunity declines after 3 months when the chances of hospitalization and dying doubles than that of two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose. The study was conducted on 2 million citizens of Scotland and 42 million citizens of Brazil who have taken the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine.

The chance of hospitalization becomes thrice after 4 months and 5 times after 5 months of vaccination. However, other vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna shows much slower rates of ageing. A booster dose is needed after 5 months to boost up the immunity against Covid-19. Latest studies found that the booster dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna is significantly effective against the new Omicron variant. Currently, due to the large population, as well as a scarcity of vaccines in the country, the interval between 2nd and booster 3rd dose of Covishield is now pegged at 39 weeks by the Indian Government.

The waning of immunity is the prime cause of the sudden rise in Covid-19 cases in India post-Christmas. The year-end celebrations around the country were followed by the advent of the third wave of Covid-19. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and other big cities have already witnessed partial lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19. The booster dose and Covaxin for children have been made available. Currently, the booster shot is being given only to doctors, health workers and people above the age of 60. Keep updated on the 3rd dose availability and get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Tourism Sector on Decline after Strict Rules

The tourism sector in India has declined by more than 50% in the last 2 weeks following strict Covid-19 curbs and restrictions all across the country. Tourist hotspots in the hills and the beaches have been flocked by tourists as soon as the curbs were eased after the second wave in the country. However, in view of an inevitable third wave, restrictions have been again put into place. Expensive Covid-19 tests and unavailability of transportation lead to a fall in tourism, leaving the hoteliers staring at a loss.

Tourist hotspots like Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Gangtok, Goa, Kerala, Digha, and Darjeeling witnessed a sudden rush of tourists as lockdown eased. People with one or no doses of vaccines ventured out in view that as long as 1st dose vaccination certificate and Covid-19 reports are present, no one will get Covid-19. However, it is not the first time the tourists have spread the virus to the locals despite taking all precautions. Excessive tourism was one of the main reasons for the spreading of the delta variant of Covid-19 in India. Also, after the second wave, sporadic outbreaks are seen in some tourist hotspots in the country, spreading quickly among the locals.

The tourism sector has been hit hard by the pandemic throughout the first and second waves. Now, a third wave may sweep through the country if measures are not taken. Scientists have urged people not to venture out unless it is absolutely necessary. The Government is also taking the same path, allowing little transportation, banning large gatherings, and restrictions on hoteliers. Parks have been restricted to only those who are fully vaccinated, and hotels can allow only those guests who carry an RT-PCR Covid-19 negative test report. However, some restricted places like Lakshadweep have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases as the Government did away with mandatory 14-day quarantine. The rising number of Covid-19 cases in Kerala can be attributed to the tourism sector as well.

Trains are running throughout the country, though the local trains have been put off the track. Heritage trains have been non-operational since the first wave. However, numerous tourist facilities like boating, cruise, ropeway, and opening of shrines and religious places have opened, prompting tourists to rush in. Opening the tourism sector is also important as it will generate a huge chunk of the population that depends entirely on it. With the third wave knocking on the door, the Governments must unite and try to minimize its effect as much as possible. Most importantly, the tourists must take precautions as much as possible and must be fined in case of any violation. Also, it is urged to everyone to follow Government advice and Covid-19 protocols as much as possible to avoid any further outbreak of pandemic in the country.

Written by – Himadri Paul

What You Can Do at Home during Lockdown

We all are busy working from home or studying from home life. But apart from that, we do get a lot of extra time that goes unutilized. There are many household works that we could do to enjoy our life at home and enrich our amateur skills. Let us go through some jobs that can keep us occupied in a dull lockdown period.

1)Cooking : Cooking comes in the number 1 spot. Cooking is a passion for many of us, while it is a very laborious task for others. It is nice to try your hand at cooking this lockdown. It is not that you have to cook restaurant quality and Masterchef dishes. You may lend a helping hand to those cooking food daily at your home. You may also try making some new drinks or simple desserts, or you may decorate and garnish a particular dish item. Try your hand at chopping, grinding and baking. Most recipes are found on the internet and youtube, so you don’t need a high degree of knowledge or skill to start cooking. Start with basics like brewing tea, frying omelette, or kneading dough.

2)Room Decoration : This may seem unnecessary when no guests are coming to your home, but for people, who like their home tip-top, this is one thing they would like to do all day. Decorating a home doesn’t mean you need to buy furniture or make curtains. Keeping our house clean is also a form of decorating our home. Mopping the floor, sweeping the floor and walls with a broom, destroying the spider webs in ceiling corners or human hair underneath a bed, and even making your bed is a form of cleaning the home. Anytime you can experiment with certain adjustments in your room like moving the furniture to different places, put a separate sheet over the sofa, or rearranging your dressing table. Start with wiping wall clocks, or changing room carpets or dust the tablecloth in your room, it will take away a lot more time than you think.

3)Light Exercise and Yoga : For those who are not a fan of exercising daily, the lockdown period is an excellent time to bring it to a new hobby. It is not that you have to build muscles or lose weight. Start with light exercises and yoga that are taught at school. Exercise rejuvenates your mind, makes you concentrate harder on your work, and helps you stay fit and active at the same time. Start with breathing exercises, brisk walking, surya namaskar, and you are good to go.

4)Sun-Drying Unused Clothes : Clothes that are not regularly worn are likely to harbour moisture and fungus and smell damp. It is an age-old practice in India to turn cupboards out and leave everything on the balcony or roof to dry in the sun. Take them out in small batches, and put them in the sunlight. It is summer now, and the sunlight is likely to kill germs present in the clothes. Small batches will make sure that it is an occupying yet straightforward task. Who knows, you may find a dress that you have always overlooked. If you have a garden, then do a bit of gardening like watering the plants or fertilizing. This will ensure you get Vitamin D from the sun.

5)Knitting and Handicrafts : Do you like weaving? There is a lot of DIY stuff, a short form of doing it yourself, that keeps your mind relaxed at this tense hour. You may learn knitting in lockdown and if you already know it, then make sure to keep the boring evenings occupied by knitting or sewing. Mend pores in old clothes, put up torn buttons, make covers that cover expensive clothes or quilts. If you know to weave, then you can sometimes keep busy knitting a sweater with wool. You may make your cushion with a new piece of cloth. Decorative stuff like coloured bottles, pen stands, wall hanging materials can also be made with minimum requirements. Start with searching youtube for DIY crafts and try to implement the one suitable for you.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Partial Lockdown vs Complete Lockdown Conditions

As the second wave of Covid-19 wrecks havoc in many states, there is again the need for a lockdown phase 2. This time first partial lockdown was imposed, which was expected to slow down the spread of the virus. But the reality was just the opposite. Hence complete lockdown was imposed in most states. The importance of lockdown during Covid-19 times was felt as the second wave has started to decrease from a peak value. So why was complete lockdown not imposed as soon as the number of cases rose? Let us now compare between partial and complete lockdown and understand which solution is more practical. Note that lockdown itself is not enough to save you. Instead, everyone has to strictly follow all Covid-19 guidelines and maintain good health and hygiene.

In lockdown phase 1, when the whole country underwent a strict and complete lockdown, much middle class lost their means of livelihood, the people suffered a lot, and the migrant workers and students got stuck in unknown places. Thus the Government does not want to impose such stringent measures around the country that may impact most citizens. This time around, the states were asked to impose partial or complete lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. So many states imposed a partial lockdown when the number of cases started rising. However, it didn’t work out at all due to the negligence of the citizens. Let us now see why partial lockdown failed in most regions.

Partial lockdown hardly reached anybody’s ears. It has become a norm that as long as the police do not arrest anybody, it is safe to disobey Government rules and regulations in lockdown. The Governments are to be blamed as well. The Kumbha Mela at Haridwar turned out to be the biggest super spreader of Covid-19 in the world. People from all over the country gathered at Haridwar to take a bath in the Holy Ganga during Kumbha Mela. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand happened to be the primary source of the Mumbai strain of the Sars-Cov-2 virus after Mumbai. Also to be blamed are the election rallies in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam that accounted for a significant outbreak of the virus in these states. The markets are to be blamed as well. There was a sudden urge of everybody to go out shopping, and in February and March, people behaved as if there was never any pandemic situation here. The Chaitra sale in Kolkata looked as if pre-pandemic times had returned. Schools reopened only to be shut down immediately due to teachers and students getting affected.

Amidst all these, Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow were the worst affected cities that faced a severe oxygen crisis. The travellers were by far responsible for spreading the virus to some metropolitan cities and rural countryside. Today, a chunk of the country’s population are migrant workers, and a significant number of middle-class families are tourism-lovers. The Bengal strain, an escape immunity variant of Sars-Cov-2, had actually spread in January 2021, when the tourism-lovers visited tourist places and workers migrated to other states for work when lockdown restrictions were lifted.

However, complete lockdown instead of partial lockdown worked in favour of curbing the spread of coronavirus. It is evident from the figures that peak was achieved in many states in mid-May, and the number of cases has declined since. Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu have battled the coronavirus and are now looking forward to easing lockdown restrictions. However, this time the Government is not taking it lightly, as the severity of the second wave forced the Government and the citizens to be aware of an even more destructive third wave shortly. Also, vaccination drive has hoped to limit the damage caused by Sars-Cov-19 in the body.

With Bengal, Odisha, Assam and some other states yet to reach their peak caseload, it is expected that despite easing situations in other parts, these states still have to maintain their lockdown restrictions to minimize further damage by Covid-19. One of the best practical moves is creating awareness and enforcing a few conditions for a few more weeks so that there is not much congestion of people in a particular area. Limitation of market hours, refrain from rallies, festivals, and gatherings, restriction of people’s movement through public transport are good options. The Home-delivery system should be increased and implemented in as many fields as possible. Virtual conferences, online classes, and work from home should be a part of the new normal until the virus is eliminated from the country. If China can do it, New Zealand can do it, Australia and some other countries can do it, then we Indians can do it as well.

Written by – Himadri Paul