Ever since the lockdown was announced it has become a routine for me every morning to recline on the bed by the side of the window with a book in hand but intermittently staring at the mango tree and getting lost in a silent commune with it, for how long I am not aware … …
One such morning, musing at the unusual summer holidays that the COVID -19 has granted me… which, of course, I am enjoying afresh, for such a boon has revisited me almost after almost five decades … suddenly, whispered at my friend of the holidays: How long do you think I would be under the lockdown?
Nodding its newly sprouted coppery leaves, it gently murmured: “No idea.”
Obviously, the way the corona virus is tearing its merciless path through the globe, no one could perhaps, guess an answer.
As though rooting for it, a Cuckoo from a far-off tree cooed thrice.
At the wandering voice of the cuckoo, suddenly flashed in my mind those beautiful sentences that Camus wrote in his The Plague: “Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
How true! This time too, we are all caught off our guard… … indeed, are torn between “conflicting fears and confidence.” When a pandemic occurs, we first take it as though it cannot stand against the intellect of the man. We even tend to believe that it will pass away soon… but unfortunately, it turned out to be men who are passing away…
What a wonder! A lifeless algorithm (?) … a tiny single stranded RNA associated with a nucleoprotein within a capsid comprised of matrix protein… a spherical shaped particle lodging in man’s respiratory cells with the aid of its spikes around …transcribing and translating its uncoated genome into the host cells’ genetic material… inducing it to replicate the viral genome…and as new virions form by budding from host cell membranes, making it impossible for the host cells to function normally… making the living beings – men and women gasping for breath… indeed, it rocking the whole globe.
Once multiplication started, symptoms begin to appear… with a median incubation period of 5.1 days, upper respiratory symptoms such as cough and sore throat, laboured breathing, etc., may start by 4-9th day of infection… Following it, inflammation of lungs with acute respiratory distress may start troubling the patient during 8th-15th day of infection… Aged people and people with co-morbidity such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes… find it extremely difficult to cope with the acute respiratory distress warranting their immediate placement on ventilators…
And this is what is rocking the world today, for none of the countries found themselves action-ready to handle this sudden surge in demand for such sophisticated medical facilities. To buy time to assemble such facilities … to offer medical support to the infected, and knowing that this virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, governments across the countries declared lockdown… or insisting for social distancing.
This has obviously brought the global economy to a grinding halt. Now this has become even a greater challenge to manage. What is now bothering everyone on the street is: When things will become normal? For sure, it will take quite a long time.
Even after lifting the lockdown on May 3rd nothing would ever be as normal as today, for a lot of our daily life will probably change forever: Our very lifestyle is bound to change: family get-togethers for eating in restaurants likely to become a practice of the past; gatherings of relatives at family ceremonies, dancing in the pubs…etc. etc., are sure to become out of fashion … indeed everything will change, of course, for good! People will soon shun curry-points and start self-cooking. Travel to work places, schools, colleges and markets becomes a big challenge. This may compel people with a semblance of affordability to rush for acquiring own transport …
Agriculture and construction work will be opened up and so would be the case with factories, schools and colleges. But industries such as hospitality, travel and tourism, IPLs and similar activities will take much longer time to come back to normalcy. With the virus in an exponential growth phase and in the absence of rapid testing of every single case and immediate isolation of positive cases, mere shutdowns turning ineffective, elimination of virus may not be possible, on the other hand, there is no wonder if cyclical waves of infection become a norm…. Secondly, maintenance of the kind of social distancing that its prevention calls for is perhaps daunting for India, as we live in tightly packed dwellings and its impact is being already felt in places such as Dharavi. Over it, the normal flu-season being a stone’s throw away, everything looks pretty disturbing. So, any improvement in these sectors have to necessarily wait for the discovery, approval and wide-spread manufacturing of vaccine, which is almost a year-and- a half away to happen, if at all happens….
The cumulative effect of all this could be: an all-round contraction of economy. Overall buying capacity will be crippled. It means fall in demand for goods and consumables. It would have a spiralling effect on the real economy. One estimate by Goldman Sachs predicts India’s GDP growth to “nose-dive to a multi-decade low of 1.6% in the fiscal 2021 due to Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns”. And there appears to be no exaggeration in the prediction, when the report argues that the “global COVID-19 crisis represents a physical (as opposed to purely financial) constraint on economic activity that is unprecedented in post-war history”.
In the backdrop of these developments, it is the poor who are going to suffer most, both physically and financially. For, all those who have such jobs which permit them to work from home will be least effected, while those who have to be necessarily on site would face the real wrath of the COVID-19 – both physically and financially. People from other than IT services may even lose their jobs. Everyone has to learn new skills if he/she wants to be hired by businesses. Again, it’s a big challenge for the less-endowed.
Over it, nations will be forced to move more and more towards digital world. Businesses such as restaurants, grocery shops, vegetable and fruit vendors, etc., have to not only build up a robust pickup and delivery service but also show-case their sanitization measures and cooking of their popular dishes on their websites to tempt the people to continue to look for outside food.
Even event managers have to work for making celebrations virtual. Which means they have to build technology and even demonstrate its effectiveness freely till consumers catch up with it. So is the case with trainers – they have turn to online. Even tourism may turn into an interactive virtual walk along the ramparts of Jodhpur or Golkonda fort. No wonder, if in course of time, even court rooms and Parliaments go virtual.
So, what is certain is: Post COVID – 19, world will look differently. But if you ask me, “How much different?” I could only say as much as you could adapt to the unfolding scenario. And, talking about adaption, I get reminded of the concluding sentences of Camus in The Plague which highly merit to be quoted as an apt conclusion to our current predicament: “that the plague bacillus never dies, never disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture, and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and book-shelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men , it roused up its rats again and sent them forth to die in a happy city.”