Beyond the lockdown: The next wave | Daily FT

Perhaps it’s time that we accept that we can’t defeat COVID and just be ready for the next wave just like other countries – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara 

By K.S. Pathirana

We have practically been under a lockdown or some sort of travel restrictions since early May. It’s now close to four+ months of restrictions. Perhaps the most affected country from COVID out of all nations is in fact India. We’ve all seen the devastation in India widely reported across international media. Even in India though lockdowns lasted less than two months. Perhaps it’s time that we try to learn from 200+ other countries for what they did right and what they did wrong? 

I wish to use four batched of countries, UK and US | Israel | Australia and New Zealand | UAE and Singapore. Now to UK and US, even though I only took these two countries, vast majority of Europe falls under the same category. Where life has literally come back to normal. There are concerts, people visiting night clubs and cinemas like pre-COVID times. As of today, there are 109,432 cases from US and 30,825 cases from UK. Yet however life has returned to normal. 

They do introduce some mandates like mask-mandates from time to time. But they have learned to live with it. In US, vaccinations percentage stuck around 60% for many months now due to ‘anti-vaxxers’, while in UK the figure had passed 80% comfortably. According to friends, they themselves can do rapid testing at home. And there is a clear guideline to perform upon positive infection and it’s very straight forward to follow. 

Israel, once the envy of the rest of the world for its vaccination speed and success, is currently battling a surge once again. As of today, the cases of positive infections stand at 7,783, which is scary as three months ago their rates of infections were around just 20. A country that has vaccinated 92% population including children above three years. And to my knowledge they have only Pfizer and Moderna for their vaccinations. There is no better example than Israel that you cannot defeat COVID. No one can. You can only learn to live with it. 

Australia and New Zealand have adopted a clear strategy on COVID, while their vaccination drive has been criticised heavily, their strategy on COVID has been a great success and the COVID numbers themselves can prove this fact. The moment there is a breakout, they immediately shut down the area until that is dealt with. This worked like a charm until Delta knocked on their doors. As of today, in Australia positive cases are 1,714 and in New Zealand its 36. By those successful countries’ standard these are ginormous numbers. But they can afford to do these as they are very resourceful countries. They can bank on their wealth for many months unlike less fortunate countries. 

Finally on UAE and Singapore. Both heavily tourism and trade-oriented countries. 632 and 607 positive cases respectively as of today for UAE and Singapore. Every friend we talk to in these countries says that life is just normal, there is COVID but things just move on. UAE in particular is a very interesting case as they have had positive cases varying between 500-3,500 since January 2021. Needless to say, they do implement border restrictions as and when necessary, like what they did for India and Sri Lanka few months back. 

Thanks to mass vaccinations in almost all of the above countries, the number of hospitalisations/deaths is considerably lower than before. 

Very soon Sri Lanka will be a 70%+ fully vaccinated country. Now that we are seeing a natural decline in Delta surge perhaps thanks to lockdowns, perhaps thanks to vaccinations or may even be due to herd immunity, it’s very likely we will have some peace for a ‘while’. But make no mistake; it will strike back. What do we do then? 

I cannot help but to feel that as a country we think that we can beat COVID with vaccines! 

Perhaps it’s time that we accept that we can’t defeat COVID and just be ready for the next wave just like other countries. And to have a clear strategy on easy access to home testing like US, UK and others. Clear guideline on when to inform authorities and a procedure to follow upon turning positive. Stages of treatment available on multiple severities of patients and clear guideline on when people can go back to work and society upon recovery. 

I had COVID four months ago; back then informing others that you had recovered from COVID in itself was not an option, but now accepting a COVID patient in our society has become somewhat normal. 

This article is ‘pointless’, because if you ask the authorities, they will say there is nothing new to introduce. Everything has been laid out very clearly. Sadly, that’s the very ‘point’ I’m making. No, things are not very straight forward. Now that we will have the vast majority vaccinated, we should expect to see a lot less deaths and hospitalisations; touch wood! my request is to set out clear ‘home-based’ guidelines to the vast majority of those who will not be needing ‘hospitalisation’ in the future. As you can see, I’m referring to a vastly different circumstances that’s about to happen in a couple of months. And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from 200+ other countries. 

(The writer is knowledgeable citizen but not a medical professional. He could be reached via email at