Coronavirus
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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

Coronavirus is the biggest threat to India at the moment, we have never seen anything like it ever. 

Consider this, an advanced country with one of the best healthcare systems and most advanced economy, Germany, has announced that it expects 70% of the population to be affected by this novel virus.

How much will this virus impact India? 

For a while, we hoped that the extreme heat of Indian summer will prevent the virus from spreading here. However, clearly, it is spreading. The initial cases were of people with foreign travel history, but now there is enough evidence that the virus is effectively spreading to Indians with no foreign travel history.

India is not at all prepared for an epidemic of this level. 

Let me explain how things may pan out.

Say we have 50% Indians infected by this virus. What would that mean? We can understand how it would impact us by looking at what happened in countries like China, Italy, France, Germany.

Around 15% of those with this infection will require hospitalization,  and around 5-6% will require ICU treatment.

What is the total number? If our population is 130 crores, we would have over 60 cr infected. Out of these, around 9 cr will probably need hospitalization. Out of them, atleast 3 crore will require ICU treatment.

The total number of hospital beds available in India? A quick google search suggests that the number is about 14 lakhs only. ICUs are a minuscule number. A lot of people are going to die without treatment or due to the lack of sufficient treatment if coronavirus substantially spreads in our country.

And experience suggests that this flu spreads like wildfire. 

The number of cases can grow exponentially. 

Remember, that the number of actual infections is usually much higher than official numbers, because most people do not realize that they have it, nor do they visit a hospital for this expensive test. 

Just see how it has grown in Italy in a matter of days, forcing a complete shutdown of the entire country:

Many do not even realize that they are carrying the virus, but still, they spread it to more people every day!

If we fail to contain it in India, chances of which appear to be quite high, the disease could affect crores of masses within weeks as an inevitability. 

Germany expects 70% of the population to be affected. Even if 1% is affected in India, it will be a total catastrophe. 

There is no way all those who would need hospitalization and ICU care are going to get it, given the state of preparedness of our healthcare system. Many people would be dying without treatment, and there is likely to be widespread panic. 

It could become an apocalyptic disaster. It is scary to even imagine what could happen.

If you want to get a deeper understanding of how the coronavirus epidemic is growing, read this: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

Is there any way to stop this?

Yes. And that is social isolation. The virus cannot spread if people do not come in contact with each other.

If all the citizens of our country begin to isolate themselves, we can slow down the growth of coronavirus a great deal.

The government already recognizes this and has canceled almost all visas for those coming to India from abroad. It is highly likely that if we see a number of cases rising by the day as is the trend now, within a week the government will be forced to enforce a complete shut down of the country, including schools, colleges, public transport, courts, offices, and all public places. Markets will be mostly shut down too. We have no other choice.

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This is exactly what had to be done in Italy last evening, although a bit too late!

So how can we contribute to stopping coronavirus?

We can do our bit to enforce social isolation and share the correct information that can prevent more people from being infected.

Here are some things we are doing at LawSikho:

  1. Canceling all events.  My team worked really hard to organize an event this weekend at MNLU, we are postponing it to June 20-21, by when we expect this wave of epidemic to be over. Our weekly events stand canceled too, indefinitely.
  2. We are shutting down LawSikho offices in Delhi and Kolkata. We are not stopping our work, we are only continuing it in a different way. We would be working from home going forward. It would take us a couple of days to achieve this, but we are working towards it. 
  3. Our tech team is providing a tech tool to ensure we can collaborate online seamlessly. It will also take a stronger mindset and more discipline for those who come to the office regularly to set up a personal workspace, internet, and other systems at home, but we will do it. In fact, 50% of our team members have already been working from home across different locations in India for the past four to five years. Collaboration has been seamless. Now we have to learn to do that with 100% of our team! Not easy at all.
  4. I have requested all my colleagues to stock up on essentials, like food items, cooking gas, candles, basic medicines for 1-2 months. 
  5. I taught my staff how to make hand sanitizer from denatured alcohol/vodka/gin and I am planning to make some extra to gift them to loved ones and friends. All local stores are out of hand sanitizers or are trying to charge obscene amounts for the same.  Remember that soap bars work great, too.
  6. If you have to travel, use surgical gloves. They are more useful than masks to prevent contagion of flu. Avoid traveling. I am cutting short or canceling all my travel plans. 
  7. Careful about handling currency notes. Use gloves, or even better, use digital payments. Avoid eating out altogether. No going to gym etc.

We are not panicking. This is a precautionary measure. We are taking preventive steps ahead of time. This is our fight to ensure that everyone stays safe, and we continue marching forward in the face of obstacles.  

What can we expect in the months to come?

I hope none of these really materialize, but given the experience in countries like Italy, here is what we could expect if the virus manages to spread in India. 

Since social isolation is the only way to stop this virus, it is likely that the government will soon have to order complete shutdown of public transport, offices, courts, academic institutions and everything else.

Delhi government has already shut all cinemas, schools, and colleges for instance.

Supply chain is likely to be impacted, making it hard to get essentials. 

Work and economy will be impacted. Worst affected will be gig economy workers, freelancers, those working in vulnerable private companies. That includes most lawyers. Income generation may be temporarily affected. I hope you have some savings to dip into if things head south. Figure out your living expenses for a couple of months at least. We may be facing a true emergency. 

If you have to get hospitalized or get some treatment, you need to factor in the current situation. Such treatment may become very hard to get. Protect the vulnerable in your family through total social isolation. 

I expect the whole thing to blow over in 1-2 months. Vaccines are already on their way, at a much faster speed as this is the highest priority of the entire medical world right now. Several potential treatments were under animal trials, and they will be expedited for human trial and experimental treatments. We can expect the vaccines to be widely available after a month or a maximum of two months. 

Whatever happens, this is a fast-spreading contagion and whatever has to happen will happen quite fast and get over. Then we will be left to pick up the pieces and build a world better prepared to deal with such threats in the future.

Finally, stay home, stay safe. Self-imposed quarantine is going to keep you safe. Take care. 

Let’s hope for some miracle that stops coronavirus dead in its tracks in India.

Is there any opportunity hidden in these dark clouds?

We are planning to go full steam on our own learning and development, as we learn to collaborate while working away from the office. In every dark cloud, there have to be some silver linings, and we are trying our best to spot the hidden opportunities. 

Our product managers and team managers are acquiring project management skills at a new level. We are also documenting our processes in greater detail. We will focus on underlying tasks that enable growth that we ignore due to day-to-day work pressure. Hopefully, this will also give us a breather to come together stronger as a team and a community, and work on deeper levels of planning and developing our vision.

While we will not be doing events, we will be offering some webinars that you can attend from home.

As you plan to stay safe, consider placing your attention on moving forward and acquiring new skills. It is one way to keep any fears or panic from blowing out of proportion in your mind.   

Some of you may save time travelling, or have additional free time when you work from home. This could be the opportunity to focus on long-term learning and skills, as day to day tasks come to a temporary standstill.

If during these days of hardship, you want to continue learning and developing new skills, consider taking some online courses from LawSikho. Here are some:

DIPLOMA

Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)

Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws

Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations

Diploma in Business Laws for In-House Counsels

EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES

Certificate Course in Legal Practice Development and Management

Certificate Course in Real Estate Laws

Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy

Certificate Course in Media and Entertainment Law: Contracts, Licensing and Regulations


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