The threat of COVID-19 pandemic (C19) has set the country on a war footing with the tri-forces, police and health and allied services deployed to fight this. A curfew is imposed to ensure social distancing of people to prevent the spread of C19 infections. This is a suddenly emergent pandemic threatening the whole of humanity. [...]

Business Times

Post COVID-19: Restarting the socio-economic engine


Activity at the Matara market after curfew was lifted this week. Pic by Amila Gamage

The threat of COVID-19 pandemic (C19) has set the country on a war footing with the tri-forces, police and health and allied services deployed to fight this. A curfew is imposed to ensure social distancing of people to prevent the spread of C19 infections. This is a suddenly emergent pandemic threatening the whole of humanity. The collateral damages to the people by this are incalculable. It drains their hard-earned savings and exacerbates poverty. These will have a debilitating socio-economic impact on all sectors in the country.

Facing this challenge is daunting, since this is not like the Tsunami 2004. This is a global pandemic where every country is affected and no country is in a position to help the other. In most of the global crises, be they man-made or natural disasters, the international community sprang to action and provided global leadership. But this time, three months have passed since the emergence of C19 in Wuhan, China, the global leadership is yet to emerge and each country is left to fend for themselves.

Currently, we are in the midst of disaster management fighting C19. We should be confident of the progress hitherto made by the proactive steps taken by the government. Possibly strict adherence to social distancing would help eliminate the threat.

Assessing the current scenario, it is evident that passing this difficult time with lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions is easier, compared to what would ensue in the aftermath. Therefore, our attention should be focused on developing mitigation and remediation plans to manage the post pandemic period that follows. The post pandemic period could possibly be a new world order demanding total lifestyle changes, creating a ‘new normal’. This would expose us to new challenges, threats and opportunities requiring major changes in the way we live and do things.

The immediate aftermath of the relaxation of lock-downs and restoration of the supply-chains would not bring a near normal state, instead, it will most likely be chaotic. The immediate aftermath would increase the unemployment and poverty rate, influence reverse migration, disrupt education and public services, create a surge on health and mental health care, and spike divorce rates etc. These would be some of the imminent challenges that we should be prepared to face.

The government will have to take drastic measures to face this emerging challenge. It has to ensure an efficient bureaucracy and must initiate resource efficiency and adopt lean management principles by prioritising on critical sectors to function effectively. This would require a total overhaul of the system and adoption of systemic thinking in recalibrating the state apparatus to face new realities.

Post C19

Post C19 will be a new era that would demand new adaptive practices to face new realities. In the initial phase of it, social distancing would still be required until a vaccine is found or herd immunity achieved. Therefore, during this period, screening, tracing, wearing masks, maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing would be imperative in spite of the absence of an immediate pandemic. Hence, responding to this and resuscitating socio-economic life would require new techniques and technologies to help maintain social distancing whilst rebuilding life.

The focus on social distancing in the Post C19 would be disruptive to public transportation, shopping, education, health services and the industrial sector which require people movement and congregation to keep the system running. Therefore, to obviate disruptions, communication technologies, Internet transactions and new policies on health and safety   in workplaces need to be introduced.

Internet online transactions

The Internet online transactions are handy to help maintain some degree of social distancing across several sectors:

Online Shopping: Currently, this serves mostly the urban populations. That there is a need for capacity building to make this a livewire of e-commerce.

Online Education: During the lockdown, certain schools adopted online learning as an emergency measure. Sri Lanka is yet to develop a proper infrastructure for online education. The current Sri Lankan education system already suffers in respect of access and quality disparity between urban and rural schools. This urban/rural gap will get transformed to intra-urban and intra-rural gaps between resource rich and poor schools if online education is adopted in an ad hoc manner. Online education should be a national initiative that gives easy access to every child. This should not exacerbate the quality gap widening social disparity between children.

Telemedicine: Private sector health care institutions can start tele-medicine practice using the Internet. They can provide online consultations to their patients and where required this can be supplemented by mobile hospital services.

Online CAD/CAM, BIM and 3D Modelling: Online Design, Construction, Engineering, Printing and Packaging and 3D Model components can be produced maintaining social distancing.

E-Governance: The government must take immediate measures to strengthen e-governance initiatives to increase efficiency and reduce service cost. This would enhance efficient governance, increase transparency and eliminate corruptions.

Complementing the above, mobile technologies and the Internet can be used efficiently to reinforce the socio-economic framework without compromising the required social distancing. Effective use of the Internet and facilitating online transactions would help keep at least 25 per cent of the population off the road. This would as a result, reduce vehicular traffic and congestion in the streets and contribute immensely to reduce pollution and the carbon footprint. This will help social distancing and help save costs incurred in fuel for transport, time cost of travel and cost incurred on mitigating environmental pollution etc.

At a time of cost cutting and imperative frugality, it is suggested that the government increase the Internet speed and capacity and eliminate taxes on Internet services at least for one year to help spur economic growth and enable citizens and businesses embrace online transactions as the new norm. In support of this, the free WIFI system already provided in public spaces can be further expanded to serve a large catchment area benefiting the public.

Effective use of mobile technologies and Internet transactions would reduce people mobility and keep some off the streets. But to run the socio-economic engine to be productive, would require people to congregate in their workplaces and factories. Maintaining social distances in workplaces and factories would require new health and safety policies. Such policies should develop new regulations in respect of work space arrangements and sanitary facilities to prevent infections.

The twin approach of reducing people mobility by effective Internet use and increasing health and safety requirements in workplaces can help transition to the post C19 new normal state to kick-start our society again.

(The writer is an architect
and Sustainability Consultant
and contactable at:


Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.