Are You Ready to Embrace the New Normal of Social Distancing?

The COVID- 19 pandemic has led to an economic scenario, which has never been witnessed by either me or anyone I know. The sheer magnitude of the epidemic is unparalleled, and the mayhem it has wrecked on markets worldwide. 

Businesses all over the globe have suffered tremendously, and the small and medium-sized enterprises have taken the hardest hit. Many organisations won’t survive, and those who do will have to cover a road to recovery. 

As far as us humans are concerned, we will probably have to become more and more careful about hygiene. Social distancing has become a necessity. Now, unlike a few months ago, spotting people without masks has become a rare sight. 

The Central and state governments will have to navigate a difficult road to save everything. The only feasible way forward is through practical measures that keep the virus at bay and allow people to go about their normal lives. 

Around two-thirds of India’s 4.3 million IT BPO workforce has shifted to a work-from-home (WFH) model to run businesses amidst the lockdown. Experts say that organisations are likely to switch to WFH permanently.

Over one million IT workers might continue to operate from home even after returning to normalcy after the lockdown. This step will allow more women to enter the workforce as the daily travelling hassles will disappear. Other significant reasons why India Inc. is seriously considering WFH as a new constant is that if applied correctly, it entails cost savings, comfort and productivity gains.

Keeping all these in mind, several industries are gearing up to open for business while abiding by the social norms. After two months of lockdown, it is understandable that you may want to step out and enjoy a cup of coffee at your favourite coffee shop or go for a movie with friends – enjoy the simple joys of life.

So, let’s take a look at how restaurants, shopping malls, movie theatres, airports, etc. will follow the government’s guidelines for maintaining social distance after the lockdown.

Restaurants and Bars

The staff working in bars and restaurants will have to wash their hands with soap every hour. Temperature checks will also be done after every hour. There will be at least a 2-meter distance between tables. Any materials entering the kitchen will have to be sanitised first.

All tables will have sanitisers, utensils will be sanitised, and the table and chairs will be sanitised after every use. Sick employees will be asked to take a paid leave and stay at home.

Shopping Malls

Only 20% to 25% of the capacity of malls might open. Due to limited openings, the malls will not host any major festivals through public events. Lifts will be sanitised. Retailers dependent on imports will have to wait for a few more months to reopen. Shops selling essential items inside malls will be allowed to stay open. However, it is not a good idea to visit malls immediately after the lockdown as the centralised AC makes them a hub for virus transmission.

Also Read: This Too Shall Pass: Indian Market’s Volatility Amid Coronavirus Nightmare

Movie Halls

All areas of the theatre, which includes the lobby, the box-office, the security check-in area, auditoriums and the seats, F&B stalls, washrooms, and the entry and exit routes will be sanitised. The staff will wash hands during working hours and wear gloves, and regular temperature checks will be done as well. Wearing masks is mandatory and should be worn at all times. The Aarogya Setu app is mandatory for all cinema staff. PPE kits will also be available for purchase and hand sanitisers will be available at strategic locations. 

As per global cinema norms, each alternative seat is to be kept empty in a standard auditorium. Nonetheless, couples, families, and groups can sit together. Although in luxurious auditoriums, no seat will be left empty in between due to the existing distance between the reclining seats.

Airports and Flights

The Aarogya Setu app is compulsory for all airline passengers with smartphones. In case you do not have a smartphone, you must submit a self-declaration form. New norms for domestic flights were recently released by the government, which includes wearing of masks and gloves for the entire journey, thermal checks before entering the terminals and displaying ‘green’ status on the app.

Passengers will also be expected to make a home web check-in and print the boarding pass before they arrive at the airport. Passengers must show their PNR via a glass shield to airline staff to reduce physical contact. Passengers are required to obtain a protection kit before boarding, consisting of a three-layered surgical mask, face guards and sanitisers.

According to an AirAsia staff, “The aircraft cabins will be disinfected with aerosol spray before the flight departs. The cabin crew will go through temperature checks during shifts and be wearing face masks and gloves at all times. There will be no in-flight meal services.”

Travel and Tourism

The State Tourism Department has planned a phased and multi-stage action plan to sustain the sector that generates 3.5 million direct and indirect jobs and accounts for 14.8% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). In the first stage, the emphasis will be on hyper-local tourism to promote both intra-district and inter-district travel, followed by promoting inter-state and international tourism. The early stage of the promotional intra-district drive will be to encourage people to dine out within their city.

The challenge is to instil trust in the safety and hygiene that will be in place after the COVID-19 lockdown among tourists, and these two factors will be the tagline of the promotional campaign. The Department of Tourism will tap social media to send messages to the target audience to create momentum for the sector’s revival. Encouraging MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism, apart from promoting wellness tourism and marketing adventure sports in the state, will form a part of the revival scheme.

Online Classes

With the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in India, education institutions were the first to close. Many students signed up for online classes immediately to satisfy their regular learning needs, and this phenomenon has unexpectedly brought the growing importance of the edtech industry to the fore. For starters, BYJU’S received an overwhelming response from the student community, with more than six million new students using the app alone in March. Many of the resources used for a smooth learning experience include discussions during video sessions, exciting online games such as Kahoot, screen sharing, assessments administered through personalised portals, and platforms for homework submission.

Online Exercise Sessions

As people stay home, the demand for online fitness classes has increased. The options are endless, which includes yoga, dance routines, Tabata and bodyweight exercises. For example, FITTR has a home-workout series that runs twice a day. The coaches hold live sessions on their Facebook pages every day, at 6 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Each workout session lasts from 45 minutes to one hour. It includes yoga, meditation, high-intensity workout, core workout, chair workout, bodyweight training, Tabata, shadow boxing, functional exercise, and circuit training. Once the lockdown is lifted, some operators expect only 25% to 30% of people to go back to classes in person, while the rest will workout through online videos.

The Government of India extended the lockdown till May 31 with a few relaxations. Domestic flights will resume operations from today.

For any clarifications/feedback on the topic, please contact the writer at sujaini.biswas@cleartax.in

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