COVID-19: Let’s get out of this catch-22 situation

Abhay Apte
Tuesday, 19 May 2020

This lockdown has not only controlled the infections and deaths (for such a massive population) but also has given us the crucial time to plan for some healthcare facilities.

We are heading towards the lockdown 4.0, which is supposed to be liberal and active. We will know about it when it gets formally announced by the government. There is no doubt that a large county like ours, needed all these lockdowns, simply because we cannot create the healthcare support in terms of workforce or infrastructure if the infections go out of control. This lockdown has not only controlled the infections and deaths (for such a massive population) but also has given us the crucial time to plan for some healthcare facilities.  

Even today, it is a fact that the corona spread is increasing and technically, a strict lockdown can be advised. But, it has a huge flipside as well. The daily wagers are starving. Almost all the businesses are in deep trouble. Government has no money and not getting any routine tax income. Unfortunately, liquor has become its support system. A sufficiently long lockdown has already been imposed, and there is no certainty, as to when this virus will go away or can be effectively tackled. Certainly not until there is a vaccine or a sure shot medicine. This may take a year or even more. We don’t know. So, can we remain locked down till then? No. 

At the same time, if we go entirely back to our earlier normal life, then corona spread will rise in no time, and we will be back to square one. Just imagine the Mumbai local trains running in its (over) full capacity or people crossing borders from the red zone to green zones freely. Then we will be again required to be completely locked down with more financial hardships. 

That’s why this is the ‘Catch-22’ situation, a dilemma, from which no easy escape route is in sight. But then, we will have to find a solution if we want to live further. To my mind, for now, there is only one option, and that is to - LIVE WITH IT. 

Change your lifestyle, rather than trying to boast that we are unbeatable. I do respect the human talent and his tenacity to fight, but remember, as always said, the ‘Mother Nature’ will help only those who adapt! Let’s accept that with all our talent, one micro virus has virtually stopped the entire world. Rich and poor, strong and weak from all the religions, genders and all the nations are locked inside their houses.

But, on the other hand, we can still lead our life by adapting to a new rule and taking baby steps. We have seen that post-COVID-19, the ‘work from home’ culture is getting stabilised. Businesses can start with a smaller number of workers. There are home deliveries for many commodities. The courts are rapidly moving towards video conferencing, e-filing. New processes certainly will emerge in every field to ensure physical distancing and protection. 

In many countries, schools have started with 20-30 per cent of students. To start with, each child will go to school twice a week to control the numbers. Rest of the days, it will be online teaching. Even we have started with it. ‘Take away’ restaurants have already started. They can start with lesser customers sitting as well. Of course, when can we start public transport, even at reduced capacity, is going to be a big challenge. 

Some sports activities can undoubtedly start. Individual games like tennis, badminton can start with complete precautions, with only two players on the court. People can go out for walks, cycling or running with protection, wherever they can maintain physical distancing. Exercise is an equally important activity to keep your immune system intact. 

Once and only when the circumstances improve, even the team games can start. Though the mega sports events like Olympic are rightly postponed, the bilateral matches can be a possibility. Cricket Australia is eagerly waiting to welcome the Indian team in October. For any other board, Indian tour is the only significant source of income. Some nations are talking about matches without live spectators or with lesser number of spectators with live coverage to take care of media rights. Of course, this is subject to the control of spread and starting of international travel. 

The hockey team is waiting for the practice sessions, and so are the shooters. Football, rugby, athletics, swimming, we can think about many. Initially, it has to start at the local level. But of course, all this can be considered only with a lot of changes and adaptations. The same is the picture with most of the business activities. The prominence will be obviously for healthcare, agriculture, IT and emergency activities. Let it be the manufacturing or service industry, sports or entertainment; this is the time to brainstorm and decide on the new rules of conduct for the way forward. 

So, by accepting and respecting coronavirus, we can go back to work with new rules. That will also give us much-needed confidence, and some money to at least survive, as the next battle is against the unprecedented economic recession. The lockdown gave discomfort to many, but as a lawyer, I have seen some people getting into the comfort zone of discomfort as well. So we need to think positively and get out of this, safely and steadily. No doubt, getting back to work has to happen in a graded manner. 

Remember, we don’t have to call ourselves as the protectors of Mother Nature, as it is more than capable of doing it on her own. If you act funny, it slaps you. So, show complete respect, adapt and get back to work with baby steps. This is the only vaccine at least until the human-invented vaccine arrives.

(Advocate Abhay Apte is ex-member of BCCI Legal committee, former President of Maharashtra Cricket Association [MCA], an ex-President of Deccan Gymkhana Club and a leading advocate.)

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