Frontline workers, like Ganeshan, a pharmacist of 20 years, stepped up to serve the public in the distribution and delivery of medical essentials. Although his family members and fiancé did not approve of him going to work, he clearly told them that he has a social responsibility over his community. They pleaded with him saying his life was a lot more important than bringing a paycheck home during these times. He had to put aside their warning cries to commit to this social cause at an unprecedented time. His customers would often call him and explain their urgency for certain medications for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart-related issues, allergic conditions and so on.
“How can I ignore their pleas?”, he asserts. Once he decided to return to work, only his fiancé accompanied him to help in the pharmacy as his assistants were unable to work due to the woes of their families.
A month into the curfew, Ganeshan received a call from the local OIC informing him that he had been in contact with a supplier of face masks who had been tested positive for Covid-19. The police surrounded his house, and he was taken to his pharmacy. The police took all of his masks he had kept for sale, and burnt it as it posed a risk. He lost around LKR 40,000. Ganeshan was asked to self isolate in his home for two weeks as he was a suspected case of Covid-19. During this time of destituteness and confusion, he was heavily criticised by his neighbours who accused him of bringing the disease to their doorstep. Although Ganeshan was never tested positive for Covid-19, he was regarded with contempt. His only support was his friends who agreed to leave essentials for him on his doorstep.
Oftentimes the sacrifices and struggles of frontline workers go unseen, and in the case of Ganeshan, this is apparent. His isolation was extended for a further two weeks. And this negative public opinion of him would go on for even longer, which he has to endure due to the primitive public narrative associated with Covid-19 afflicted and suspected patients.