It wasn’t one of the normal, cheerful days, but spine-chilling and cynically bleak when the Government imposed an indefinite lockdown for the first time in March last year following the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shops padlocked, offices downed their shutters, schools and colleges closed down, and then there was a complete closure of all establishments, followed by an open-ended curfew world over. Life came to a standstill for all of us.
The initial period of the pandemic was very harrowing. The catchphrase was the rampant nature of the virus and no treatment in near-sight for the same. People’s movements were curtailed and they were advised to stay indoors.
Furthermore, the lockdown, whose severity varied from country to country, netted mixed responses; Initially, it seemed like a much sought-for respite, a getaway from the daily, hard-working life and a time to stay at home with the family. We chilled at home, watched movies on TV, played indoor games together, and did everything possible to make use of the leisure, and enhance our bonding.
Further, the curfew brought down the noise and air pollution considerably, allowing us to breathe fresh air sans any carbon emission generated by the fumes of cars and industries otherwise; even though we understand that it will be for a short time only, nevertheless, we will be able to relive the good, old childhood days when the population was scarce and the environment was effluence free, and thus we will be able to recharge our bodies and brains in the meantime.
As the curtain drew on all activities, only IT could sneak its head out of the drapes- the only hero that refused to take a break. Its engagements boomed. The panic-struck people started to share updates on the deadly virus through online SM channels like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and made the most of the net. Google searches took a quantum leap as people looked for ways and means to cope with the pandemic. OTT exploded.
But, after some time, the lockdown became a bit suffocating, and staying at home became frustrating. The other snags came in the form of board and university exams getting canceled ad infinitum and leaving the students in the lurch, furloughing of office staff, closing of inter-country flight service and inter-city train services, which, unfortunately, exposed the migrants/trotters to their most possible nightmare.
And, as if that was not enough, they were forced to foot huge bills for the hotel stays at the destinations in absence of air/rail connectivity, which was unreasonably justified. Daily wage earners started to flee to their native villages. Marriages and large gatherings started to get canceled. In general, the economic curve slid drastically downwards. And amid the noise of closing shutters, only the medical industry survived.
We all swear by the adage, necessity is the mother of invention, don’t we? And going by it, out of every roadblock that we faced, sprung a surprise route. OTT replaced 70 mm, and video conferencing took center stage for all kinds of official meetings/other gatherings. Zoom and other VC possibilities like Blue Jeans by Verizon, Log Mein, became potboilers- a blessing in disguise for conducting important meetings, webinars, and chats.
Courts started to conduct emergency cases online so that the judiciary doesn’t come to a total halt. Schools and colleges started teaching virtually. And online sales flourished in absence of retail sales.
Restaurants and cafes changed their old recipes and introduced new ones which were high in nutrients in keeping with the immunity-boosting mantra. FMCGs introduced new food items rich in vitamin C. Amul Chakra, Haldi ice cream, Bisleri bottles with added minerals, ITC’s Ashirvaad Svasti, Herb and Seed Bonn bread, are some new Indian entrants I could come across at this time.
Coming back to the home life imposed by the pandemic and spending quality time with the loved ones and strengthening our family bonding, an online Indian hotel booking site, OYO has reduced its working days to 4 days a week and which they plan to continue post-pandemic also so that family lifestyle reframed at the time of corona continues for the sake of physical and mental well-being of people; it will be a paradigm shift from wealth to health and an example to the ambitious and time-crunched people. I hope more and more people can adopt this dogma post-pandemic for the sake of blissful family life!
Then we saw a ray of hope with COVID-19 guidelines and precautions from the worrying governments, together with WHO, that focused primarily on the safety and hygiene of people and places for the containment of this contagious virus- Sanitizer, facemask, social distancing, quarantine, and immunity-boosting became the watchwords of the time.
Further, to save the economy from diving further, the government started to lift lockdowns partially and life started to look up slightly, allowing shops to operate for limited hours and people to go out only for the shopping of essentials or in emergencies. Companies made provisions to work from home defying the constraints of the regular 9-5 jobs. Students were promoted without the precincts of regular exams. And our life came back on track to some extent.
The news of the first successful vaccine for coronavirus after many trials started to make a buzz and that infused new hope in us. People started to get vaccinated, and now that we have defeated the first, second, and third waves of the corona, we can see life coming back to routine.
Nevertheless, Corona left us with a lot of repercussions; people died in large numbers and the economy witnessed a complete upheaval. But, like every problem has an upside too, the most important lesson that we learned at this time is to take care of our health with regular workouts and a nutrient-rich (immunity booster) diet and which we will hopefully imbibe in our lifestyle forever.
Let’s have a look at its financial impact on the industries and before we finally sign off this commentary:
Economies such as France, the US, Japan, UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain saw a downturn ranging between 2.5 to 8 percent of their respective GDPs. Overall, the global economy shrunk by over 3 percent in 2020, the steepest slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Investment demand dropped by at least 6.75 lakh crore; and the net loss in GDP was equivalent to 16 lakh crore, which is equal to 8 percent of the current GDP of India.
Share prices saw a downward turn affecting the value of pensions and individual savings accounts.
Airlines, oil and gas drilling, Hotels and restaurants, Hospitality, auto parts, casino and gambling, and equipment and leisure facilities remain the most affected industries while specialized REITs, property and casualty insurance, multi-line insurance, life, and health insurance, and industrial REITs, the least.
Concluding on a good note
Now that the phase-wise unlocking has started, inflation overshoot of only 3 percent of commodity prices is expected for the recovery post-pandemic (a little inflation is good for the growth according to economists) and the economy is projected to grow by 5.5 percent in ’21 and 4.2 percent in ’22, but again, a lot depends on fiscal stimulus in respective countries and strong consumer spending, but whatever it will be, recovery will be faster for US and China at 6.4 percent projected growth. And for others, it will depend more on their respective trade and monetary policies. The better the policies, the faster will be their recovery!
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