The past few months have been testing, to put it mildly, and we’ve all dwelt over its ad
nauseum. COVID-19 would have been a favourite Rum shop discussion, only most Rum shops
have been shut. And people have been missing, hiding away inside their houses, preventing
human contact, to whatever extent possible. Some even going through extreme lengths to ‘stay
out of trouble’.
Just 3 months back, no one would have predicted that a hitherto unknown virus would bring the world to a grinding halt, the way it has. And even now, the future seems uncertain, at best, with no clarity on when or if things would ever get back to normal. And if they do, what would the new normal be like?
Right now, the word ‘normal’ is a strange word, and music to many ears. Most have given up on the idea of things ever getting back to how they were, quietly bracing themselves for what lies ahead. In some parts of the world, more so in the developing and emerging markets of Asia and South America, things seem really bad with indefinite lockdowns imposed across the board. The lesser said about Africa, the better. The continent seems to be reeling with the number of cases - increasing exponentially – and compounding by increased testing happening across countries.
The USA, Europe and the Middle East seem to be slowly coming around and are in various stages of opening up their economies. State mandated lockdowns have been eased and people are slowly getting back to their lives, albeit with varying degrees of uncertainty and trepidation.
Over the past few weeks, reaching out to friends, relatives and clients across the world has been the highlight of our days. Misery loves company, and we have been revelling in the shared knowledge that each of us are fighting the same battles, and somehow, managing to get through, severely scathed. The silver lining in all of this, has been the fact that people have managed to take a little break from their busy lives, and started reconnecting with their loved ones.
Living in Dubai has shown me a very different side of the lockdown. To be fair, they never really implemented a complete lockdown, save for a couple of weeks, and even then, it was possible to step out for essentials. The way the pandemic was managed here, in my opinion, was relatively more effective. Yes, the UAE is a highly developed and a rich country. Yes, it has a small population, most of whom are expats who probably fled at the first available opportunity, thereby ensuring that the government had to take care of even fewer people. All of this notwithstanding, that this city is among the first few places in the world (New Zealand being another) that has managed to open up completely, should be a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, however long and dark this tunnel appears to be.
Today, all restaurants and bars have opened up here. Water sports, swimming pools and beaches are open. Offices are running at full capacity. Malls are open. People are out in
numbers, albeit with masks and social distancing being strictly observed. The economy hasn’t come to a grinding halt, the way it has in many other places. More importantly, we feel safe and are able to live our lives, secure in the knowledge that we are in a safe place, and that their hugely successful national disinfection program has yielded positive results. Their two national airlines, Emirates and Etihad are slowly, but surely, opening up more and more destinations on their global networks. And yes, Dubai will be open for tourists again, starting 7 th of July. You heard that right, they are preparing to welcome tourists, and have adopted a no holds barred approach to ensure that visitors have a pleasant a safe time in the city.
This is in stark contrast to other cities and countries that focussed more on imposing long drawn blanket lockdowns. Government bureaucracy and sudden lockdown measures without setting up supply chains for groceries, medicines and other necessary daily use items caused panic, hoarding and black-marketing, thereby driving prices sky high and causing spikes in transmission. Having no option but to fend for their daily bread and butter, people violated the lockdown with impunity, thereby infecting themselves and many others around them. Community spread became rampant and little could be done to prevent it. Covid control measures involved auctioning of coal blocks! Something the international community, in a not so veiled fashion, was quick to condemn.
While people struggle to get by, there have been horror stories of those getting stranded in different cities in either their own countries or in a different country altogether, with no way of returning to their homes. With everything shut around them, even finding food has become a challenge for them. And precious little being done for them. Symbolic gestures will not fight the pandemic, they never have in the past, and they never will in the future.
If more countries handled the crisis in a strategic and mindful manner - the worst could be behind us very soon. Of course, many will wait it out until we have a vaccine in place before feeling fully secure, but that’s for another day, and another blog.