How is the situation in your city/ country? Is there a 2nd wave yet?
The current situation in Sri Lanka is by far at its worse. I believe that we are currently on our 3rd wave. The numbers have been steadily rising. However, right now we are into our 10th day of country wide lockdown, and we hope that this will start slowing down the cases.
How did the atmosphere in your country change within the last months?
The atmosphere here, as I believe in almost every part of the world, has become stressful. People are worried where their next salary will be coming from, as Sri Lanka has many daily wage workers. People are becoming more and more desperate. You have skilled workers, looking to do any kind of job at this point. It´s the feeling of not knowing when things will get better that leaves you frustrated.
How are you and your family?
My family and I are holding on and hoping that at some point things will start improving. As all our businesses are tourism related, we are hoping that with Europe having more than 50% of the population vaccinated and in Sri Lanka you only have to do one night quarantine, we would become a more attractive place to visit. We try and find small things to do each day to keep us occupied and that way stay sane.
What was the biggest challenge for you within the last months?
The biggest challenge for us is finance. We own a restaurant and a travel company with staff that depends on us. We had to close the restaurant end of April 2021, and now we are just looking for a small sign to try and reopen again. I believe COVID is a challenge for everyone, but when you are a business owner and other people depend on you to provide them with an income, that level of stress and responsibility is often crushing.
When did you realize how serious the situation is?
In March 2020 when Sri Lanka decided to close the airport for inbound traffic, we thought that this would just be a temporary measure. However, in August 2020 they had announced that the airport was going to stay closed till next year. In that moment we realized how serious things are.
How did your government react to the crisis? Which measures/restrictions were taken first?
In March 2020 the government shut the airport and we had an island wide lockdown. Our lockdown was not like that of many European countries, where you still got to leave the house. For one whole month we weren´t even allowed to do that. The government provided us with one day per week where everyone could go out and do their grocery shopping, but that was about it. Since then whenever the numbers start to increase again we have island wide lockdowns or ban of interprovincial travelling.
Are you satisfied with the measures of your government? What was good/bad?
The measures of the government are ok. However, I believe that due to the economic dilemma people cannot adhere to the rules, as they need to make money and find work. We are all new to living during a pandemic, so I think that each country and government is still trying to figure out the best game plan. At this point it is one thing to try and keep the people safe, but what does it help if your country goes bankrupt and the number of poor people just increases.
What would you like to say to your government?
Look at your people. See who these lockdowns and restrictions truly effect the most. The man/woman who usually earn their money by sweeping the streets daily, who now have to stay home. Where are they going to get their salary from? Children who do not have access to computers or laptops to take part in online lessons. How are they going to keep up with their education? Yes, aid is being given, but it still is not enough.
Which sentence of a virologist/politician did you memorize the most?
Only if we work together we willl see results.
Do you know anybody who was infected with COVID-19 or even died?
Friends of mine have recently been infected with COVID-19, and you are starting to hear more and more familiar names too. Personally none of my friends have died from COVID, but family friends have and also friends of my partner. With COVID affecting unknown people it still felt like a distant issue. But by it coming closer to home, you start feeling vulnerable and scared.
Have you already done a Coronavirus test or have you been in quarantine?
I have already done four PCR-tests and was one night in quarantine when I flew back to Sri Lanka from Germany.
Are you afraid of getting infected with the Coronavirus?
I myself am not too afraid of getting infected as I have been vaccinated and the symptoms should not be as bad. However, I would be afraid of getting COVID and passing it on to others who are more at risk.
How long is/was your lockdown and what was allowed/what wasn´t?
We had the first country wide lockdown in March 2020 for one month. During this time you were not allowed to leave your house. The government would allow for grocery shopping only on specific days. After that we had some small interprovincial travel bans, but within your province everything was normal. Right now we´re in the middle of another lockdown, but as this is the 3rd lockdown people are moving around much more, as they need to in order to earn some money.
Did you spend the lockdown time with somebody and what did you do during this time?
I spend my lockdown time in March 2020 with my Mom. We kept busy by doing chore, working out everyday and trying to find some work to do. We would drive over to our restaurant from time to time, as we rented out all the rooms to tourists who were staying for the longer term. We then started doing delivery service from the restaurant and assisted with that.
What did you miss the most during the lockdown? What helped you?
I missed seeing my family and friends, especially during my birthday in April. What helped was all the online face-to-face phone calls you are able to do nowadays. It isn´t the same of course as being together, but being able to talk and actually see the face of your friend or loved ones, does make it easier.
How did your work situation change within the last months (shorter hours, working from home, etc.)
In October 2020 my Mom and I made the hard decision for me to fly back to Germany and work there for nine months. I returned back to Sri Lanka end of July 2021. With the money I earned I could help my Mom to support our businesses in Sri Lanka and save some money. In April 2021 we closed the restaurant so that our staff could go and find some small jobs until we reopen again. The staff from our travel agency are working from home and come to the office when needed.
How did your social life (relationship/friendships/dating) change due to the Corona crisis?
I believe through COVID and the first lockdown, whenever we were allowed out of the house, we truly cherished those few hours of being out, and chose to spend time with those closest to us. I made new friends and we have fostered a close friendship now. I actually met my partner during COVID as I was in Sri Lanka during the summer time, when usually I go to Europe for holidays. Therefore, thanks to COVID I met him and we have been together for over a year now.
What impact has the Corona crisis on your financial situation?
I have no income right now, so I am living on my savings. Thankfully my partner still has his job and his income, and hopefully business will slowly pick up again and provide me with an income.
Social distancing: How does your daily life look like at the moment?
Unfortunately, the idea of social distancing does not really work well in Sri Lanka. You see long lines but the 1.5 m distance is not kept at all time. My family, friends and I do stick to these rules and if someone comes to close to us we will kindly inform them to please keep their distance. Social distancing was followed right at the beginning but now public life is like it used to be, other than wearing masks.
Who are to your opinion the heroes of this crisis?
The heroes of this pandemic in my opinion are definitely the doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and just in general: Everyone in the medical field working tirelessly to help those infected with COVID. Furthermore, anyone who have tried to change their life to help others during COVID. Such as neighbours bringing meals to someone who they know can´t make it for themselves. Where a village comes together to help one person. There are so many heroes that have come out of this situation that we don´t even know about.
What did the crisis show you?
The crisis showed me the good, as well as, the bad in people. Many became selfish and everything was just about themselves and not about helping others. Furthermore, I could see how creative people became through this situation, especially when it came to creating new job ideas, sleeves were rolled up and thinking caps were put on, to find a way of adapting oneself to this new situation. The digital nomad community has truly grown and people are appreciative of this new found freedom of work.
What will you appreciate more after the crisis?
The freedom of going anywhere. I also appreciate having created a better circle of close friends and of course my supportive family. Without them I don´t believe I would have stayed as positive. They all provided me with the strength to go back to Germany, find a job and just do what needs to be done. My family in Germany were such a great support where I was able to arrive, live with them and other than working did not have to worry about much. I truly thank them during these difficult times.
Which images will you never forget?
The lines outside the supermarkets when our first lockdown happened and the uncertainty and fear that showed in peoples faces.
Which stories/incidents/experiences touched/shattered you the most?
When working in Germany I believe seeing how rude people could be to one another when social distancing was not kept, would shock me a lot, as it often was towards the elderly. This can be said and done in a much friendlier way. Also, in Sri Lanka right in the beginning when little was known about COVID, many locals in villages believed that COVID was brought by the foreigners. So whenever they saw one they would just jump away in fear of catching it.
What are you afraid of right now?
Business not picking up. Tourists not coming to Sri Lanka. Not knowing where to find our future income from.
What gives you hope?
That more and more people are being vaccinated. That Sri Lanka´s quarantine regulation is set to only one night if vaccinated, making it a more attractive destination to many.
Are you planning to travel within the next months?
Not abroad, but within the country.
Would you get yourself vaccinated against COVID-19?
I am already vaccinated.
What can we all learn from this crisis?
COVID does not discriminate based on your religion, skin colour or race. It shows us that we are all humans, and it affects everyone of us no matter rich or poor. That by looking at the negative of COVID we should look at the positive and learn tolerance and respect towards everyone.
If you could give 2020 a headline, what would it be?
2020 – The battle for toilet paper rolls.