At the end of December, 2019, public health officials of China informed the World Health Organization that they identified a new virus which is causing pneumonia-like symptoms in the city of Wuhan. Soon after that, WHO named the virus as Covid19 and seeing its speed of spread across countries, declared it as a pandemic. As the virus started to spread, countries across the globe started taking several measures to prevent the spreading of coronavirus, ranging from complete to partial lockdown, testing, strengthening health care facilities and so on. In India, on March 24, 2020, the prime minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population as a preventive measure against the pandemic. On 14th April, PM extended the lockdown until 3rd May. On May 1st, PM extended the lockdown further for 2 weeks. We are currently in Lockdown 4.0, till 31stst May 2020.
The lockdown has had varied impact on people. While some adapted to it fairly well, and invested this time with their families, working from home, reading, writing, binge watching their favourite shows and doing what they usually missed on a regular basis. Some have found it tough, getting bored with monotony, getting anxious over the spread of virus, fear of loss of jobs, missing social activity. For the economy, this has been a huge blow. Companies across sectors have suffered, with business activity coming to a stand still.
The current situation, as it stands, is that there is still no cure for the virus. If the lockdown continues, the country would have to battle with both the virus and economic distress. Hence, the government is gradually relaxing the lockdown. For instance domestic air travel has started, albeit with restrictions. Offices have been opened, with reduced staff, and lesser number of days from office. Delivery has restarted. So while there might be a semblance of normalcy that people might be seeing, the number of cases continue to rise, and there is no other recourse but to learn to co-exist with the virus till a vaccine is found.
Governments, workplaces, schools/ colleges, health centres, religious places, malls, etc at individual levels should come up with well-designed guidelines for social distancing and hygiene norms, including testing at entry and exit. Government should keep in mind the high probability of increased cases once people are allowed to interact more freely, and hence bolster health care facilities.
We as responsible citizens need to take care of ourselves, our families, or domestic health, and teams. We should be fanatical about following safety norms and social distancing, continue to wear masks and wash our hands at regular intervals. For some time, we cannot go on vacations, we cannot go for or host huge parties. Our safety lies in prevention and prevention is possible when we are mindful of social distancing at all times. Exiting the lockdown doesn’t mean going back to business-as-usual.
A well articulated and comprehensive exit strategy needs to be implemented, which should focus on individuals and organisations. Atmanirbhar Bharat package has been announced, with fiscal support released in five tranches.
Exit plan to revoke lockdown:
· Organizations across the country must ensure that the workforce adheres to the guidelines issued by the government. Organizations should encourage employees to work from home as much as they can and even if they want to continue with their businesses traditionally, they should call as less employees as they can and rest should work remotely. Only the employees, who can’t add to the business of the organization while working from home should be encouraged to work from office.
· An advisory containing the guidelines to be followed, should be emailed to all the employees in an organization, and reinforced communication should become a part of daily routine.
· Each employee should be tested before entering and exiting office.
· Alcohol based hand sanitizers must be made available to staff.
· Seating arrangements to be modified keeping in mind norms of social distancing.
· People must commute by their own cars or bikes, which means they must avoid car-pooling.
· For public transport, passengers need to follow social distancing, wear masks, and carry their own hand sanitisers,
· Air travel and trains- On board pantry services should not be resumed.
· Lavatories must be regularly cleaned and sanitized across transport and public places.
Economic activities needs to resume, except in coronavirus containment zones, albeit in a planned and cautious manner. And, each one of us has a role to play. If all of us follow the rules, we will help restrict the virus and rebuild the economy.