The brutal second wave of COVID-19 in India has left a trail of lasting devastation. It caught the country completely off-guard and pushed back the progress over the past year on the pandemic. For over fifteen days, citizens in the national capital, New Delhi faced a severe oxygen crisis, leading hospitals sent out multiple SOS requests, and this eventually spawned a black market for essential medicines. Ordinary citizens took to organizing relief on social media to tackle the shortage of critical care hospital beds including ICU and Ventilators. Elsewhere in India, the second wave was just as violent. With the virus making its way to the rural heartland, its impact turns catastrophic.
At the height of the crisis, India was contributing close to half of the world’s COVID-19 cases. And according to the US Chamber of Commerce, India’s economy could not just falter – but become a “drag for the global economy”.
The impact on businesses has been unparalleled. From losing employees and family members of employees to the disease to stalling operations due to various emergency restrictions that came into force, businesses are struggling —especially small and medium-size businesses already reeling from last year’s extended lockdown. The second wave has spurred its own share of lockdowns at the state level. It has, once again, caused migrant workers to return to their hometowns.
Tackling the second wave
Even as companies doubled down on the COVID-19 relief measures, many companies took steps to proactively support their employees and their families. From extending sick leaves for upwards of 14 days to help affected employees recover, enabling medical helplines and aligning medical resources, converting office spaces into COVID-19 isolation centers, organizing testing camps and vaccination camps, and offering financial aid –-Indian companies are wading the extra mile to help employees "heal" amid the crisis. Some companies also offered advance salaries, covered hospitalization expenses, and even announced that they support the children of employees lost due to the pandemic by bearing education expenses up to graduation.
From mobilizing the private sector to act and accelerating medical supplies and oxygen, and reviewing the impact on the economy, the Central and State governments of India have an arduous task of ensuring that life is back to normal. Over 40 countries mobilized aid for the Indian COVID-19 relief effort.
The way forward
There are many uncomfortable questions on governance and leadership that have put the spotlight back on the lack of preparedness for the scale of the crisis. But all is not well in India. At the time of writing, there is another brewing crisis that will determine the way forward for India’s COVID-19 fight —will the country be able to vaccinate enough people before another deadly wave takes over? Will the vaccinated be immune to another (possibly) stronger variant? Only time will tell.