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Keeping our industries alive: How will the third wave affect Sri Lanka?

The new virulent Covid strain has once again disrupted life in Sri Lanka. Talks of a third wave have become more pronounced and we can’t ignore it anymore. There are speculations that the new virus is airborne, which leads to imposing major movement restrictions to prevent the spread. Just like the previous times, several industries are at risk of collapse. 

We spoke to a few professionals in the food, travel, art, and music industries on their thoughts of the new strain, and how they think they can keep their respective industries alive during these trying times. 

 

‘It has had a direct effect on my ongoing project’ – Jehan Aloysius 

 

Jehan Aloysius, a full-time theatre practitioner, as well as a visiting lecturer at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, stated that the art scene, which had been affected since the Easter Sunday attacks, has never been able to recover. However, he added that artists and theatre practitioners are struggling to resuscitate the arts to help communities and artists connected to culture, creativity, positivity, and hope. 

“In the absence of theatres, performance spaces, sponsorship, and support, we full-time practitioners are using our own resources to work on developing new projects and new ways of connecting with our audiences.” He further explained that he has been exploring alternative venues and adapting the staging of some projects to present theatre in the new normal. They also found that it was time for new partnerships with venues, so that they could help each other in this challenging time. 

Talking about the risk of a third wave, Aloysius commented that the recent strain of the virus also had a direct impact on one of his ongoing projects, which has been postponed twice since last year due to the pandemic. Some of his cast members were exposed to the virus, and one of them is receiving treatment at this moment. He assured us that they have always ensured the safety of their performers and audiences at all times, adding that they have, once more, taken a break to work on developing other projects so they are not conquered by Covid when it seeks to block their creative journey. 

Sharing some advice on how to handle the situation, he commented: “We all need to do our share to end this pandemic. Social distancing, reducing travel, and taking precautions. However, artists and full-time freelance creative people have been the worst hit. I myself have been living off my savings for well over a year now. We have many projects and partnerships in the pipeline, and hope to present these to our audiences that are starved of culture.”  

He further stated that during these trying times, we always need to keep ourselves active, inspired and creative. “That keeps us sane and positive and hopeful. I am confident that we shall triumph over this challenge. As I always say, the show must and shall go on!” 

 

‘We can bring the situation under control’ – Shiromal Cooray 

 

The travel and tourism industry was one of the worst-hit during the previous lockdowns, taking into consideration that one of our biggest income is from the tourism sector. Speaking to Jetwing Travels Managing Director Shiromal Cooray, she commented that she hopes the general public will remain careful and take adequate precautions so we can bring this spread under control, in which case it won’t affect tourism negatively, but the failure to do so will definitely hit the travel and tourism sector. 

Upon asking her if she had any suggestions for how we can keep this sector alive, she commented: “We’ve kept it alive over the last year, so we’re hoping we don’t have to struggle for another year. We are optimistic that in about six to seven months, the situation will settle especially after everybody is vaccinated.” She added that she believes that the situation can be brought under control if the general public is responsible enough, advising everyone to stay careful and safe. 

 

‘It’s tough times, but we have to live with it’ – Harpo Gooneratne 

 

Colombo City Restaurant Collective (CCRC) President Harpo Gooneratne shared his perspective as a restaurateur on this new strain of Covid: “It’s tough times, but we have to live with it for the next year or so. When the first wave hit, it was something new to us; when the second wave came along, we had already understood what the first wave was. The third wave is something we have worked around over the last year, and we know what to do during a Covid situation.” 

He added that from the first wave onwards, they have always maintained sanitation procedures and guest registration, and will continue to do so now. 

Gooneratne stated that there are many delivery options in and around Colombo, so the food industry won’t die down right now. “A lot of people are staying indoors and getting food delivered to them on apps. We are also planning on launching our own delivery app soon, to make it easier for our customers.” He added that they can maintain the industry by reducing prices and continuing with everything they did during the previous waves. 

 

‘Covid has caused financial, emotional, and psychological setbacks’ – Shehara Jayatilaka Napoleon

 

Local musician and the first female metal solo artist in Sri Lanka Shehara Jayatilaka Napoleon firmly stated that the new strain, or any virus for that matter, should not be taken lightly. Sharing her thoughts on the current situation, she said: “We all need to be mindful about how difficult it is when we get sick, and just be responsible enough to isolate ourselves, seek medical attention, and overcome the disease. It’s not easy, but if you’re sick, please keep away from others. Especially babies and the elderly.”

The music industry was also hit quite hard over the last year, as gigs were nearly impossible due to the constant lockdowns and travel restrictions. Shehara expressed her feelings on this: “The music industry has suffered the drawbacks of cancelled and postponed gigs since last year. Some of us have had to alter sponsorships and deals and haven’t been able to meet fans, headbang and mosh for so long so, while it has caused serious financial setbacks, it is also an emotional and psychological one.”

She further commented that the only way she knows how they can keep going is to keep pushing forward, doing what they love. “I say create more. The world is in chaos and our hearts are heavy, so pour all that into your creations and share your messages in a positive way.” She added that thanks to social media and online platforms, we’re all able to connect with people all around the world and advises everyone to use the tech we have in a good way.

 

‘We have learned to streamline our processes and become more efficient’ – Darshi Keerthisena

 

“At the moment, it doesn’t look like the country will be locked down, and we hope people will take it seriously to take the necessary safety precautions to avoid further spread,” stated Buddhi Batiks Design Director Darshi Keerthisena about this new strain of Covid. 

She added that we’ve been through two lockdowns already, and in both cases, the business suffered a lot, but bounced back eventually. Explaining to us why she thinks there is hope for the fashion industry, she commented: “I think it’s especially because people have started to value locally-made goods, and less travel makes it less accessible to foreign goods.”

Further, she added that they’ve also learned to streamline their processes and become more efficient, which is why they are confident they can deal with disruptions. “We have a dedicated team that is resilient with the last two pandemics and a loyal customer base.

Demand was strong during this avurudu season, and we feel that we could bounce back from the dips from the third Covid wave too.”