How things have changed in the past few weeks! The Coronavirus has captured headlines, conversations and mind space like nothing else in living memory. I recall making my plans in the end of last month, to travel out of the country in the end of March and the first week of April. Of course, that has been cancelled. And that change is only about the travel. The situation has been fluid and bordering on paranoia over the past 2-3 weeks. It is difficult to imagine that it is that recent! The economy is taking a turn for the worse across the globe, there are hints of panic-buying and hoarding everywhere and shutdowns have become the norm. Through all of this arises the question – “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” as Queen put it so beautifully in the song “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The latest analysis from China suggests, among many other things, that approximately 80% of the patients that tested positive for Coronavirus show mild symptoms and recovered. Only 5% were deemed to be critical and the risk of being critical increased as the age of the patient increased. Going by online reports and the news media, China did a superlative job in controlling the spread of the disease. Of course, this is data from China and for the rest of the world, they are only now getting on the ramp up to the peak of the cases. The dynamic there could be different – one never knows. And this never knowing – the fear of the unknown is leading to drastic steps that are either necessary or overblown, depending on what you believe.
Looking at the trend of spread across the globe, it is understandable that countries are shutting down. The rise of cases has been exponential and spreading far and wide, especially over the past week and a half. Health care systems simply do not have the capacity to deal with the number of diseased. Over here in India, the only choice we have, is to prevent. The health care system here is simply not robust enough to treat a potentially large chunk of the population. In that regard, the official reports indicate good progress in keeping the number of infections at a remarkably low level. Till now. We all know how quickly this can get out of control. The number of infections can rise exponentially very quickly. The indications from the government are that there has been no community transmission in India as yet. The opposing view to this is that there have not been sufficient number of tests to ascertain the positive cases. How will it play out in the next few weeks here is anybody’s guess. What I can attest to is the increasing measures being taken by the community that I reside in. Over the past week, we have gone from being guardedly cautious – the gym, swimming pool and club house shut; to a partial shutdown – no domestic help, no cooks will be allowed in. E-commerce delivery partners will have to be met near the entrance to the society and the parcels collected. Make what you will of it.
There is no news other than that related to COVID-19 wherever you look. News channels, online, office conference calls, you name it and there is an inevitable reference to the pandemic. I find myself worrying about things that are simply out of my control. The economy primarily and the future, secondly. It is a weird feeling – the kind I used to get prior to exams during my college days. Nervous excitement, perhaps, about the unknown. The only predictable item in these weeks is that there will be change, for the better or for worse. The corporate world has had courses on Change Management for years now. This, now, the world dynamic is a change that calls into action all those lessons learnt. Leaders need to remain strong through all of the uncertainties surrounding the future. In any case, all one can do is take care of their own selves and, as they say, practice social distancing. Simple, really.