Each day, when I look at the increasing number of COVID positives, I wonder if it would have helped if the strict ‘lockdown’ was extended by a few more weeks. I am sure this is a debate amongst my family members and friends too.
When I took a step back and thought about all the essential stuff we need, as a family and as Individuals, I felt that further ‘lockdown’ would have made livelihood difficult.
Today, I am writing an article on LinkedIn, am reading and writing emails, and am on video calls and conference calls for business meetings. Many of us may be using online retailers for ordering food, vegetables, fruits, groceries etc.
How does this work? Firstly, the stores are online, I have a stable broadband connection, I can use net banking or Google Pay or online wallets, I can select and pick up stuff we need into a shopping cart, provide our address where it will be delivered, and pay for it online.
If we look closely on what keeps this going in order to make our normal livelihood happen…
The availability of stable internet and the people maintaining it; your smartphone, maybe, and the telecom providers and their staff who are working to make sure your telephone works, and then there are the groceries and other shops that have an internet presence, and the technical folks maintaining their portals or websites and keeping their data updated.
They have a delivery team, often called roadrunners, who pickup from the store and deliver it to your home. The motorcycles they use have to be fuelled and refueled at gas stations by individuals, and the vehicles will have to be maintained.
Going a little further, these stores will need a procurement team and aggregators, and again the working team along with the teams for logistics supply chain management. In addition, depending on the items you procure, they may come from agricultural farms or manufacturing plants. Agricultural farms need labourers and all the inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides (if needed). And the yield is typically transported to wholesale markets and then further on to the retailers. Similar logistics for manufacturers: raw material to pre-processing to production to the remainder of the supply chain.
Banks will have to work with all the staff, even though reduced or staggered, to make transactions possible on either net banking or even to ensure that ATMs keep working. We take it for granted that you can walk into an ATM, use your card, and withdraw cash. Well, in the first place, every ATM has to be loaded and reloaded with cash and there is logistics behind that happening.
Now, Imagine the lockdown was implemented for a longish period that meant strict containment and closure of many of the entities I mentioned above! How long can we sustain our livelihoods, even assuming we are enabled to ‘work from home’ as applied only to businesses that are completely digital and online? What if our work and earning or income depends on going out to a workplace, maybe a manufacturing unit? Can that be shut down for too long?
I have tried to illustrate one thread of our essential needs and the entire supply chain that is needed to make it work.
Let us imagine the diversity of things we require, the commodities and services, and the entire supply chain. ‘A chain is only as strong as the weakest link’, and if the weakest link breaks, you don’t have a chain end-to-end.
While the COVID pandemic is worrying, bringing in a sense of uncertainty, helplessness and frustration, I would like to believe that extended ‘lockdowns’ render living unsustainable.
Can everything work as it was during pre-COVID times? Obviously not!
Hence, I guess the need to take good care of ourselves, and following the protocols and standard operating procedures, be compliant as much as possible.
The simple protocols of staying at home unless absolutely needed, wearing masks, washing your hands as often as possible, and most importantly maintaining strict social distancing — do we get hassled by these ‘must dos’? Of course, yes.
I have a suggestion: whenever you think of these SOPs as a hassle, think of the frontline health workers, the nurses, the paramedics, the technicians; the sacrifices they are making, the courage they are displaying. In case one wants to know how it feels, wear a full PPE kit for 8-12 hours, just once!
They also have had to work with health systems that were underprepared and insufficiently equipped, to put it mildly. Today, most hospitals have no beds, and hotels and other facilities are being turned into quarantine centres. This only means more pressure on the health infrastructure, which is fighting hard to cope with the Pandemic.
No one to blame, as COVID hit us suddenly, and almost nobody, and almost all countries, had imagined a pandemic of this kind to breakout and sweep the world, creating a huge damage to the world economy.
Imagine how much damage it caused to populations under poverty, and the densely populated areas. Inevitably, we have to pay attention to people who are ignorant, or have a callous attitude towards the pandemic and the precautions to be taken.
Let us switch to being very optimistic. Scientific research community across the world is collaborating, ignoring odd exceptions. There are several candidates for vaccines that are at various stages of trials, and as a non-medical person, I read that some of these vaccine candidates may cover a large spectrum of the Coronavirus strain, and maybe even provide lifelong immunity. Maybe new medications will become available.
The probability of this happening is high, and if everything works well, maybe they will be available for use early next year. I would like to believe that in the interim period, every individual should take utmost care of themselves and their near and dear ones.
Let us stay positive and optimistic that mankind will defeat the Coronavirus and its origin.
This period is well documented, and well evidenced, and should be a great lesson in history for the succeeding generations. It should become a part of education at all levels, and finally, it should be a great inspiration for conquering a dark period in human civilisation.