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Dilemma of ‘Social Distancing’

As SD comes out as the most effective solution to prevent spread of the Coronavirus, it also brings in gloom for the businesses across

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‘Will the world now wake up to the global threat of zoonotic diseases?’, Dennis Carroll, a leading voice of spread of zoonotic spill-over, the transmission of pathogens from non-human animals to us. This may just be a beginning of such spill-overs and a many of Global scientists & researchers like Carroll and even our own Research bodies- ICMR and a few leading Pharma across the world are working hard to quickly turnaround with an effective vaccine (an Israel co. already announced a breakthrough which still need to be validated by global bodies) for this ‘fast spreading’ Coronavirus, let’s try to lay bare the facts and analyse the economic recession threats looming large over our heads. 

Why Social Distancing (SD) is the only key measure, which can help prevent Coronavirus spread in India now?

As per USA Today, “Wash your hands and keep your distance. Those are two of the best tools we have right now to slow the spread of coronavirus around the U.S., according to federal health officials.

Washing your hands has long been recommended to combat illnesses like the seasonal flu, but keeping your distance or social distancing is a new tactic that schools, sports teams and government officials fully embraced this week with unprecedented cancellations. It’s not so much about keeping you healthy as it is about minimizing the number of Americans infected at the same time…”

What Is Social Distancing (SD)?

“Ideally, we would be able to stop the virus from spreading entirely. We can’t do that right now. What we can do is slow it down, so that the severe cases get spread out over a longer period of time, and hospitals are less likely to be overwhelmed on any given day. And that’s where each one of us comes in. The best way to slow down the spread is for everyone — healthy, sick, young, old — to limit social contact as much as possible, immediately. This is called social distancing, and it only works if enough of us do it. But if we do, it could mean the difference between the life and death of someone you know.”, say Vox.com experts.

What does SD mean in Indian pretext?

According to Dr Devi P Shetty, Indias leading voice in Healthcare sector (similar views are voiced by the government & other key opinion leaders too as a ‘key preventive measure’), certain measures with respect to implementing SD norms in India should be taken up immediately by the population at large, mainly the business sector, which includes:

  • Avoid all travel, international or domestic, air, bus or train. Long-distance travel is the biggest contributor to the spread of disease.

  • Avoid all places that concentrate large numbers of people in a small area. This means schools, gyms, malls, open-air markets, pubs, theatres, temples, other places of worship, swimming pools, etc.

  • Work from home. Whether you work in an office or a factory, you are at risk of infecting or getting infected by your colleagues.

  • If you must show up for work, keep 6 feet distance from your colleagues, avoid the canteen and postpone all meetings with outsiders. Don’t meet in groups of more than ten.

  • Avoid all conferences, sports events, melas, rallies, cricket matches as that risks the highest chance of an outbreak occurring.

Unfortunately, these SD measures have a grave Economic Impact!

Just last week when I heard a Founder of large NBFC intensely strategizing to convert his 8 sector Loan Disbursement into 4 sectors, mainly comprising of 2 key recession proof sectors- Healthcare & Education, the panic visible on his face was a reflection of the gloom which our Economic Sector is going to take the burnt of in these coming months.

According to the experts- Hospitality (including Travel), Construction, Transport and Chemical manufacturing sectors are likely to be the worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, India's top imports -- crude oil and gems and jewellery -- which collectively account for 46 per cent of total imports are relatively insulated from this public health crisis, according to the report by ICICI Securities. 

Out of India's total imports of USD 507 billion in FY19, 26 per cent of the basket, which comprises iron and steel and inorganic chemicals, is likely to be affected modestly. 

But at the same time it was also so sad to see some leading 5-star hotels in the heart of the Capital city literally crumbling- one Intl. 5-star hotel in the centre of the Capital city was running at less than 15% occupancy, they have reportedly fired 50% of their Contractual staff and were planning to shut down the hotel for a few weeks if this situation doesn’t improve by the end of 3rd week of March and that’s what happening all around. India can still take a solace that still we can see people on the roads, my friends coming from US & UK narrate the sordid tale of roads and public places almost shut down giving a graver situation in most of developed countries.

 

In the midst of this, Delhi Govt. informed that while the government quarintine facilities are available, the Delhi government has also arranged three hotels as the pay and use quarintine facilities, which is a good case of optimal utilization and better management.

 

According to industry chamber CII, this is the one of the worst crises ever to hit the Indian tourism industry impacting all its geographical segments - inbound, outbound and domestic, almost all tourism verticals - leisure , adventure, heritage, MICE, cruise, corporate and niche segments. In an impact assessment of the coronavirus pandemic, CII Tourism Committee said inbound foreign tourism of over USD 28 billion in value terms accounts for an average 60-65 per cent between October to March and with India cancelling all visas, the impact “will be worse”. 

GOI Action Points Against COVID-19  

Other that a many of responsible initiatives & timely intervention taken by  this Government like: 

  • A few stringent screening measures at International airports

  • Follow-up of each case or a suspected case (very smartly, the Health Ministry officials are landing at homes of all suspected cases to double check if they are not caught with the virus)

  • Building Quarintine facilities in advance & in abundance (advance preparedness)

  • Making the Covid-9 testing (first & second stage) free for all citizens in government hospitals (very soon they are likely to allow the Testing to be done by Private Labs too in India)

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s initiative of creating a Dash Board and building all Data at one place through their portal www.covidout.in is a remarkable way of handling things in a professional way and make available all facts and figures on a real time basis so that there’s less chances of ‘creating hype & misinformation’ by the hands of rouge media and the ill-informed ‘aventure enthusists’.

Huge economic impact is inevitable while we make all out efforts to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic 

No doubt, in the current situation, SOCIAL DISTANCING measures seem to be the only obvious solution. The vaccines seem to be quite a distant dream and the risk of ‘Coronavirus spreading faster in a country like India stands to be a grave reality’, but SD also remains the key factor to ‘kill our businesses & bring a huge slump to the economy’ at least in the near future.

According to few studies- ‘Panicking into Recession Could Kill More Than Coronavirus’…

COVID-19 is deadly, and it's smart to keep coronavirus from spreading. But even more people could die if we panic the world into recession.. is a a given fact that we need to live with…for the time being!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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coronavirus outbreak coronavirus pandemic economy

Swadeep Srivastava

Dr Swdaeep Srivastva is a Public Health Expert with about 25 years experience working in ‘Healthcare Communications’ & ‘Health Awareness & Patient Education Space’ as Founder & Mentor @ HEAL & also runs a ‘Patients Management Program’ as Founder & Chief Belief Officer @India Virtual Hospital.

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