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When weddings lead to funerals

a year ago

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In the Sri Lankan context, marriage is considered a highly prestigious event in a person’s life, and most people spend all of their life savings, and sometimes even borrowed money, for a wedding without a second thought. However, in the current Covid-19 context, money is not the only cost that might be paid by a person hosting a wedding ceremony; we are living in a time where hosting such ceremonies can cost the health and even the lives of all those in attendance. The health authorities have strictly warned against large gatherings, and weddings are allowed only under certain restrictions to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. According to the guidelines issued with the lifting of the lockdown early this month, only 50 persons are allowed to attend a wedding. However, as was seen in the past few months, people tended to be creative in this regard, using the loopholes existing in these guidelines to get any number of their friends and relatives to attend weddings. As The Morning reported this week, there is now a trend of allowing guests in batches of 50, at different time slots, which is tantamount to throwing dust in the health authorities’ eyes to attain selfish ends. This situation was noted by the Public Health Inspectors’ Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) as well. More people than the legally allowed number of people attending wedding ceremonies is a bigger issue than it seems, as those are events where alcohol can be served with no limit and activities that involve the close contact of people such as dancing are common. Also, the wearing of masks and maintaining social distance are rarely adhered to between relatives and friends, and vaccination, even though extremely important, has become an excuse to violate the Covid-19 safety guidelines even in the general society. These blatant violations of the Covid-19 safety guidelines are taking place in a context where the health authorities have emphasised that the country’s situation is still not completely safe, and the people’s irresponsible behaviour and deliberate disregard of the guidelines have taken, and continues to take, its toll in deaths. As a matter of fact, the third wave of the pandemic is a prime example of laws and regulations’ extremely limited ability to control people’s behaviour. After reopening the country, before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the health authorities issued a set of guidelines to be followed after the lifting of the lockdown, especially during the New Year season. Several parties, including the PHIs, pointed out the practical issues in enforcing these guidelines, claiming that the health authorities needed to take more severe steps to control the people’s behaviour, as mere guidelines would not cut it. The result of the guidelines, without scant attention to adherence, was the birth of the third wave, which also led to a fourth wave and months-long lockdowns extended on several occasions until early this month. The last few months also saw throngs of people travelling to various areas in violation of inter-provincial travel restrictions, mostly for recreational purposes, despite countless warnings against doing so. The truth of the matter is, using various strategies to misuse loopholes in laws and regulations in order to continue to have social gatherings, make fools of those trying to do so, rather than the health or law enforcement authorities, as the responsibility on the part of the people is bigger than the responsibilities assigned to the health authorities. Irresponsible behaviour can easily result in the progress Sri Lanka has achieved so far going down the drain, and exposing loved ones to the risk of contracting Covid-19 by inviting them to an overcrowded wedding ceremony is not part of a good relationship. At the end of the day, the only personal agenda the people must prioritise at this critical juncture is the health and wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones.
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