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Tentative Takeoff

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Flights began operating across India in limited numbers on Monday, even though the people willing to travel by air and undergo the consequent quarantine process were few. A flight to Doon’s Jolly Grant Airport, for instance, carried only three passengers. There are divided opinions regarding resumption of flight services, with even the Supreme Court pitching in with its take on the subject. However, if trains are transporting people in the lakhs, now, why should the airlines be denied the opportunity to get back to work? It is the general consensus that life needs to get back to normal functioning with the necessary precautions.

It may be noted that even at the strictest stage of the lockdown, those serving in what are termed the ‘essential services’ were expected to continue performing their duty. It was reported on Monday that eighteen policemen in Maharashtra have died of COVID-19 till now, with many others infected. Doctors, hospital staff, police personnel, news media and sanitation staff have been risking their lives without complaint, exhibiting courage no less than that usually associated with the Armed Forces. They have been following protocols to ensure there is no transmission of the disease – about time the lessons learned are applied on a larger scale. This is because the loud message emanating from everywhere is that there can be no delay in getting the economy going again.

There are a number of activities that are undertaken in the open and spacious environments that can be resumed without much fuss and with the most basic precautions, such as outdoor, contactless sports and agriculture. It is only in the confined spaces of certain occupations where it is difficult to avoid proximity, such as offices, that difficulties lie. Here, too, the alternative of work from home is already being rapidly adopted. It is now believed that many people may be asked to not attend offices on a regular basis. Companies will be happy to let go of their expensive offices and only retain space for just those who need to interact with the public. It may be noted that banks have been operating almost throughout this period quite effectively and there are very few reports of the infection spreading there. This is because almost inessential activities have been halted. They were among the first to adopt the strictest protocols and sanitisation. This can be replicated in other offices and workplaces. Specific SOPs should be worked out for every sector so that the threat is minimised, and the more vulnerable groups protected. Having done the best it could, the nation now needs to get on with the alternatives available now and pray for the best.