Coronavirus – The Impact So Far

Global News and Perspectives

It feels like Armageddon. Except, it’s not the Nuclear Armageddon that the world had feared – it’s microbial. And no one quite knows how to deal with it.

As we brace for what’s to come, we’re also trying to come to terms with the devastation COVID-19 has already brought. It’s been a surreal month – thousands have died, stock markets have nosedived, businesses have shut, people have got laid off, and the wheels of world economy have started to screech – as social distancing has become the order of the day. It’s a downward spiral – and this, doomsayers warn, is just the beginning.

Or not. It’s hard to say.

Let’s get a bird’s-eye view of the impact of the Novel Coronavirus so far.

First, the human impact

International students have been one of the worst hit. Many universities, world over, have asked students to move out of their rooms and dorms. NYU recently sent an e-mail to undergraduate students asking them to vacate their dorms in case beds are needed for Coronavirus patients. As panic spreads, institutions are preparing for the worst.

The problem is – international students have nowhere to go. Their only option is to leave the countries they are studying in and return home. But that’s not possible for millions of students, who cannot return home for a variety of reasons – from visa statuses to financial ones, not to mention the travel restrictions. Parents are in a quandary – should they force their children to return somehow or ask them to stay where they are? It’s a devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea choice. Flying is fraught with risk and staying is scary. And then there’s the ultimate worry – what if the student falls ill in a foreign land?

Universities too are facing a tough choice – many are racing to set up the online infrastructure, especially for final-year students, who need to complete their degrees. But the shift is turning out to be a big challenge for the universities and students alike. In the United States alone, more than 150 universities (including universities like NYU, MIT, Yale, Princeton and UCLA) have gone virtual, moving classes online.

Here’s what the scenario looks like for students in the U.S.

At TC Global, we’re in constant touch with our students and partners. Our aim is to ensure our people are mentally and physically sound, and by keeping our lines of communication open, we are able to be a support to them. One of our students wrote to us telling us about the situation in the U.K. She said, “thanks a lot for reaching out to me. Yes I am in regular contact with the university and they have cancelled face to face lectures. I still have some of the modules left to be completed and it seems they won’t be completed anytime soon. The virus is spreading at a rapid rate. There have been around 800 cases in UK out of which 80 are from Scotland, where I am studying. I have been keeping an eye on the UK government’s news report for the virus. There have been 6 cases in the county where I am studying. I have a lot of questions about this current situation and I am scared about my education as it seems it is going to massively affect it. It really means a lot for you guys to reach out to me. Thank you so much. I am glad I chose TC Global”

It’s the case everywhere. As fears of Coronavirus mount, institutions seem to be left with no choice but to reduce collectiveness. This, coupled with travel bans, has left thousands out in the cold. Distress stories are pouring in from everywhere – of students and travelers stranded all over the world. Like students from Maharashtra who are in Singapore and unable to find flights back to India. Or, students from Kerala who are stuck in the Philippines, Malaysia and Italy airports due to flight cancellations. To fight Coranvirus, the Philippines is looking at a shutdown, and has asked all international travelers to leave within 72 hours.

World over, as countries shut down and airlines cancel flights, families are being torn apart. Thousands find themselves stranded, unable to travel to be with each other – parents, siblings and children are scrambling to travel to return home, but are simply not able to.

In Europe, which has been the sharpest rise in Coronavirus cases outside of China, travel restrictions are not only causing chaos for people but also upsetting trade. Australia and New Zealand are the latest countries to announce that they are stopping all foreigners from entering their countries, no matter where they had travelled to, and their own returning citizens would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Never before has the world shut its doors so tightly.

Unemployment, cutbacks, recession and jobs losses

It’s not a pretty picture. The Chief of International Labour Organization has warned that Coronavirus is “no longer a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,”

And the impact will be felt across the board, not only in fields of hospitality, travel and tourism – though these will be the hardest hit. The World Travel and Tourism Council says that the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry. What’s worse is that it could take months, even years to recover, even after the virus recedes (and no one can say when that will be)

According to calculations made by the ILO, global unemployment could rise between 5.3 to 24.7 million from a base level of 188 million in 2019. As a comparison, the financial crash of 2008-9 had increased global unemployment by 22 million.

And yes, global recession seems like a reality. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have now declared that this is well on its way.

Free Falling..

COVID-19 has also sent stock markets world over into complete turmoil –  the FTSE, Nikkei and Dow Jones Industrial Average have fallen steeply. This month the Dow actually saw its biggest decline in one day since 1987.  The free fall has promoted regulators in many countries, like Spain, France, Italy and Belgium to ban short selling in some stocks. However, that, warn some could make the situation worse.

Closer home, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex and NSE Nifty have seen their biggest ever single-day sell in absolute terms. After the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and the U.S. imposed a travel from European countries, the Sensex crashed 2,919 points, seeing one of its worst falls.

Give me some good news

Ok, so there’s hope. Coronavirus is on a steady decline in China. Only one new case was reported this week, travel has begun, parks have opened and the last of the Coronavirus hospitals has now closed in Hubei – since there are not enough cases to keep it open. If cases in the epicenter of the disease are down, it’s a matter of time before the rest of the world manages to beat it too.

This too shall pass

The world is doing all it can – collectively – to beat the beast.  It’s important not to lose steam and keep taking all precautions. Social distancing is a must, as is washing of hands. At TC Global, we’re doing our bit. We’ve gone completely virtual. Our students and partner interactions are all taking place digitally, and almost our entire workforce is now working from remote.

Ironically, as Coronavirus is causing the world to shut its physical doors, it’s opening virtual ones. COVID-19 has given the last push to the way we work, and made the world more borderless than ever before. The future of work has arrived.

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