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Continuity Of Business Must Be A Priority

The focus must be on bringing down the infection. At the same time, we must avoid loss of jobs and livelihood

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The second wave of Covid-19 in India has been much worse than the first, severely impacting the health and lives of people across the country. The virality, speed, and intensity of the virus is unprecedented, and this has taken a toll on the healthcare system of the country. Balancing lives and livelihoods has become even more challenging for policymakers.

After successfully flattening the Covid-curve in the beginning of 2021, green shoots of economic recovery had started showing up. The vaccination drive came as a ray of hope, signalling an end to the crisis. However, the second wave of the pandemic has disrupted this recovery and pockets of the country are once again staring at economic uncertainty.

Various economic indicators available as on date point towards high economic risk. The March Purchasing Managers Indices for both manufacturing and services have declined. There are reports indicating a significant decline in production amidst the lockdowns introduced by the various state governments. The latest report by SBI indicates a Rs 1.5 lakh crore hit to the GDP. Consumer as well as business confidence have been hit, as indicated in RBI’s survey. Several organisations have already lowered India’s GDP forecast for FY22.

Most of the contact-based sectors were already struggling at the end of the first wave. The current crisis will have a bigger impact on these businesses. There is a fear that several small and medium enterprises in these sectors may shut down. The anxiety and fear of the lockdowns has already triggered an exodus of migrant workforce out of cities. The reverse migration crisis not only impacts the livelihoods of the workers but also affects production and business over the medium term.

The focus right now must be on bringing down the infection, breaking the chain and thus easing the stress on the healthcare system. At the same time, we need to continue with business activities while following Covid-appropriate behaviour. Covid containment strategy must be implemented through testing, tracing, isolating, and treating and a micro containment strategy. We also need to simultaneously work towards an innovative and need-based approach to break the chain of transmission and ramp up vaccination exponentially. Universal vaccination for all above 18 years is a positive step. The vaccination drive should be on a war-footing, optimally utilising all possible avenues. The private sector is eager to contribute towards this initiative.

FICCI has also suggested various ways by which testing can be increased exponentially, especially by allowing selftesting through home-use RT PCR test kits. There is also a need to strengthen manpower in our healthcare facilities. This has already been done to an extent by inducting final year nursing students and medical students through on-job training and onboarding.

On the economic front, continuity in business activities must be a priority to avoid loss of jobs and livelihood. We have suggested calibrated restrictions in the states imposing lockdown, so that manufacturing units can continue unhindered with appropriate Covid-19 safeguards. We feel that various regulatory forbearances introduced last year during the lockdown need to be brought back to provide relief to the ailing SMEs.

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.

Dilip Chenoy

Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI

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