Express press service
As Covid cases were down, life was getting back to normal, but suddenly cases are rising across the country and in Karnataka, leading to fear and anxiety of the fourth wave in several areas, which are on the about to return to normal. While the government insists that a total lockdown will not be imposed, the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus is the hardest thing to deal with.
“We still don’t know exactly how we will be affected, how long it will last or how badly things could go. It makes it too easy to catastrophize and descend into overwhelming terror and panic,” says Mahesh Gowda, consultant psychiatrist, director of Spandana Hospitals, who sees at least one patient a week who is worried about the onset of the fourth wave. and its consequences. impact on business and life.
MSME BUG ANXIETY
One of the hardest hit sectors during the first waves of Covid was micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Several closed after the second wave, and although the third wave with the Omicron variant did not see a lockdown, many are still struggling to get back to business.
In Shivamogga district alone, 20,300 MSMEs are still on the road to recovery.
Rising prices for almost all commodities and the government’s decision to increase electricity tariffs have dealt a severe blow to these industries. Ramesh Hegde, president of the Machenahalli Industries Association and former board member of KASS IA, said the increase in electricity tariffs during the second wave was a blow to struggling industries.
“Fees collected by the pollution control office from MSMEs are multiplied by three. On the one hand, the council emphasizes the development of vacant areas by planting saplings that would preserve the environment, while the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Council and local bodies impose taxes on vacant land. industries. How can entrepreneurs solve this problem,” asks Hegde.
Many MSME entrepreneurs feel that the Center has failed to protect the interests of MSMEs unlike other countries, including the United States. They say they only received “peanuts” as financial aid, that too through loans.
“Our huge ESI funds rely on the Centre, but it has failed to grant them to MSMEs to bounce back,” they say.
Hegde says the industry is petrified by the news of the fourth wave and if it hits by June as predicted, most MSMEs would collapse.
F&B ASPEN ON THE NEXT WAVE
The food and beverage (F&B) industry, which has been badly battered during the pandemic, has its fingers crossed about a likely fourth wave. The night curfew, partial confinement and social distancing are the first mandates the government resorts to as a precautionary measure against the spread of the pandemic.
“These steps, while necessary, hurt the F&B industry the most. Our business drops 50% with the nightly curfew, and plunges further when we are asked to operate at 50% occupancy,” says Mukesh Tolani, Head of Bengaluru Chapter, National Restaurants’ Association of India, and Co-Founder of ‘Toit’ Microbrewery.
He says the industry has just got back on its feet and has maintained all Covid protocols.
“Our staff were fully vaccinated before we were allowed to open at the end of 2021. It has been a difficult time for the industry. Many outlets have closed due to lack of business and mounting debts. We were charged excise license fees, even though we were closed, ”explains the owner of a major resto-bar.
They say the government should monitor hospitalizations and deaths, not just an increase in the number of cases or the rate of positivity before announcing preventive measures.
“A lockdown is unscientific. It kills people’s livelihoods. The F&B industry will completely collapse with another lockdown,” he adds.
UNCERTAINTY THREATENS EDUCATION
The education sector is also extremely anxious. With the fourth wave expected in June when schools open, it’s not just school owners who are concerned, but also students, parents and teachers.
As learning took a hit in the first three waves, teachers struggled to make ends meet.
Several schools have fired teachers because they could not afford salaries as they failed to convince parents to pay school fees – the latter also being affected due to the loss of jobs and pay cuts.
The introduction of e-learning has forced many institutions to rehire a few teachers after the Omicron wave. Uniform sellers to school transport owners fear the next wave.
“Parents who were considering buying uniforms feel they have to wait. The majority of schools had restarted operations with school buses and vans. But before the schools even started, the talk of the fourth wave left us worried. If they go online again, we will be significantly affected. Without income or support for us, our own children will not be able to go to school,” laments Praveen Shetty, who is linked to several schools for transport facilities.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh said education mandates have been established to compensate for learning loss, including an early start to the next school year.
Guidelines will be issued and they must be followed, he says. However, many private schools were against implementing additional guidelines even during the third wave.
“There is no need to panic and cause disruption that will put education at risk. If schools close, it will be disastrous for children, especially since it is proven that they are not children. super-broadcasters and they are not as affected,” says Dr Shashi Kumar, General Secretary of Karnataka Primary and Secondary Schools Management Association.
He had been a strong supporter of keeping schools open, citing examples of several sectors remaining open amid the third wave.
“When all sectors are closed, then only schools must close. Schools shouldn’t be the first to have restrictions imposed on them,” he says.
Interestingly, people have shifted gears after the third wave and are in “revenge travel” mode, which has led to a recovery in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Despite the threat, the tourism industry is hoping for a new recovery.
Although the state government has delayed lifting restrictions on the tourism sector, the industry has once again hoped to continue the pace despite fears of another wave.
“There are a few do’s and don’ts that should be followed by all operators. In terms of cleanliness, food quality and tourist safety, they must follow all the laws of a particular tourist area. Karnataka attracts a large number of tourists from neighboring states. The trend continued after a gap of two years,” says Umesh GE, owner of Nadimane, who remains in Dandeli.
Dev Balaji, an adventure travel expert, says much of the population has received the vaccines and the travel industry may not face recession again.
“Operators must ensure visitors follow pandemic rules. The neglect that we witnessed during the first two waves must not be repeated,” he adds.
For farmers, the fear of the fourth wave does not have much impact. “When the whole nation was inside the houses, the farmers worked on the land,” says peasant leader Kurburu Shanthakumar. But there are many
bigger problems facing farmers.
Fertilizer prices have increased and seed availability is a problem.
“When we go to the bank, they have many reasons and questions for refusing loans to poor farmers. Farmers also face problems such as drought and floods. The government must support us, fourth wave or not,” he adds.
BUT WILL THERE BE ANOTHER WAVE?
However, many health experts, including members of the Technical Advisory Committee for Covid, say there may be no reason to panic and resort to knee-jerk reactions like travel bans or the lockdowns during the fourth wave.
The start of the fourth wave itself, experts say, is in question. A TAC member says: “Once the restrictions are lifted, movies, malls and travel are back. Were we not expecting an increase in the number of cases? This bump is expected, but the question is whether this bump will become a wave,” he says.
He argues that only if that mountain comes up could there be a fourth wave and that it’s early to say the state will see it.
Metrics such as spawner counts and positivity rates do not work in isolation but with the case trajectory. Beyond providing personal protection, there is not much you can do at this point.
Masking, vaccinating children and precautionary doses for adults can certainly prevent another wave, experts say.
Contributions from: Bala Chauhan, Ashwini M Sripad, Amit S Upadhye, Ramachandra Gunari and Donna Eva