Learning to Live With COVID-19

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Rajendra Aneja lists 10 ways to coexist with Covid-19, till the Vaccine comes
COVID-19 has flabbergasted and fatigued us for the last six months. It has disrupted our lives comprehensively. Never has the world been collectively bruised as horribly, as now.

We are unable to work from our offices, unable to visit a mall or a hairdresser. We have become frugal, since we do not know when our salaries could cease. The places where we worshipped and sought solace, temples, churches or mosques are shuttered. We are becoming socially isolated, petrified even to shake hands.

We are also apprehensive because there is no silver lining in the clouds. Nobody knows when the vaccine to neutralise Covid-19, will be available. There is another haunting question: is the worst over?

Here are 10 ways to coexist with Covid-19, till the vaccine arrives in 2020 or 2021.
Follow Basic Protocols: COVID-19 pandemic is terrifying in its proliferation even after sustained lockdowns. The USA, Brazil and India are witnessing sharp spikes. Yet, economies have opened hesitatingly, for people to make a living.

Even when lockdowns are lifted, there should be a curfew on weekends in countries like Brazil, and India to control the disease. Governments in sensitive countries should continue augmenting the medical facilities, beds and intensive care units. Countries and WHO should agree the protocol of medicines to treat Covid-19. Testing should be intensified in all countries, particularly in crowded cities.
It is up to us now, to follow basic protocols like masks, social distancing, gloves to avoid Covid-19.

Keep Your Job: Companies, airlines, multinationals across the world, are axing jobs, due to low sales triggered by Covid-19. Airbus has announced a restructuring, involving huge job cuts. BMW is eliminating 6,000 jobs. Millions of expatriates are returning to their home countries, since they have lost jobs. It is wise for a person to stay in his current job, even at a salary cut. A job is a blessing these days.

Go Online: Covid-1, with its turbulences has ushered a digital era, in our lives. The majority of the employees work from home with computers. The middle classes are buying groceries online, to avoid visiting crowded markets. Classes for students are being conducted online for students. Till Covid-19 is harnessed we will have to operate substantial parts of our lives online. Laptops are the new pens and pencils in our digital era. Internet is the new umbilical cord to the world.
The challenge in developing countries in Asia and Africa, will be to take the digital revolution to the villages. Villagers often live around the poverty line of about two USD per day. They find it difficult to buy three meals a day, leave aside a laptop.

Frugality and Savings: Covid-19 is putting financial pressure on us. Many are losing jobs or facing salary cuts, in the public and private sectors. It is important to save as much as we can for the future. We may have to use every tea-bag twice and squeeze every last bit from thetoothpaste tube, to conserve moneys for unchartered emergencies.

Store Food and Medicines: It is useful to keep adequate inventories of medicines and basic foods at home. During one of my postings in Africa with Unilever, there were sustained curfews due to a raging civil war. We were advised to always maintain extra inventories of seven items: water, flour, rice, lentils, cooking oil, salt and sugar.

Boost Your Immunity: At a time when a definitive list of medicines to treat Covid-19 is yet to be agreed globally, it is important to takes care of your health and improve immunity. There are a host of suggestions on improving immunity. Some of these involve consumption of Vitamins C and D, Zinc tablets, gargling with turmeric water, consuming milk with turmeric, steam inhalation, a high protein diet, deep breathing, yoga, etc. However, it is important to consult a doctor before embarking on a personal immunity boosting exercise.

Dignity in Mortality: There have been instances of Covid-19 deceased not being treated with the requisite protocols and dignity in many parts of the world. There were reports of bodies are being left in the streets in the overwhelmed Ecuadorian city Guayaquil. Huge mass graves, photographed from space showed the scale of Iran’s devastation under Covid-19. In Italy, there were long wait for burials. Funerals took place without family members. In India, there have been reports that bodies of COVID-19 victims were dumped in a pit.

The authorities should ensure that those who pass away due to Covid-19, receive decent last rites and their mortal remains are respected.

Reinvent Yourself: Many of us are operating entirely or partly from home during the lockdowns. We can use the extra time to improve our productivity and acquire new skills. It is best to have an agenda for the day, ideally prepared the previous night. Three to five key tasks would form a “Must-Do” list.

Writing a daily diary, recording our thoughts, feelings, issues is also useful. When we read the diary many years later, we get new perspectives on issues and ourselves. Finally, this is the time to make a will, for the convenience of the family members.

Make your Voice Heard: About 80 million migrants in India trudged back from the cities to the villages when the lockdown was declared in India. They are without livelihoods. A study in the slums of Mumbai slums shows that about 47 per cent of the slum dwellers had no income during the lockdown and 70 per cent of them had to take loans for basics like water and rations.

Most developing countries do not have unemployment, medical or pension benefits for their citizens. This is the time to conscientise local governments about providing benefits to the needy.

Keep Fighting: We cannot afford to give up hope. As Ernest Hemmingway wrote in his book, A Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Over the centuries, mankind has overcome many hurdles like World Wars, famines and epidemics. We will overcome Covid-19 too.

––Aneja, former Managing Director of Unilever Tanzania, is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and author of “Rural marketing Across Countries”.