As the pandemic continues, it is becoming more and more evident that this lockdown, the social distancing and the work closures we are experiencing, is probably going to last for at least a couple of months more.
I’ve been been working from home for three weeks now, with only the occasional excursion outside the house to work on projects that need meetings — we are working on mass producing the ventilator design that was open sourced by Medtronics — but most of my time has been spent indoors.
However, I’m one of the lucky ones. I work in education, an industry that can more easily accommodate online remote work than most others. I live in Egypt, where many workers live on daily wages. They don’t have a savings cushion to fall back on, they depend on daily work to feed their families — I’m talking about construction workers, cleaning services, street vendors, barbers, and many more like them.
These people need to earn money to keep their families alive. How will they cope with this lockdown? Not only that, how will we ensure that the food we need still exists if this lockdown continues? Who will man the food processing plants? There are certain essential industries that cannot possibly remain under lockdown for very long.
If these industries don’t go back into production, we starve. We don’t get electricity, we don’t get water, we don’t get internet access that is so essential for our new remote working environment.
I am also worried because Egypt is essentially an assembling country — we assemble products. Very few products can source their entire supply chain locally. This means that the travel bans, and the bans on exports other countries impose, can greatly impact our critical industries and infrastructure.
Can we sustain a prolonged lockdown? When will a vaccine become available? How long before a good treatment regimen is discovered? This pandemic is causing a lot to stress, and I really hope that those in power have planned ahead and thought about the contingencies.
I believe that we are going to remain under lockdown for quite some time, and that our only hope for survival will be if the government, or even each industry on its own, plans ahead for how to strike a balance between keeping people fed and our critical infrastructure going, and preventing the pandemic from spreading.
I cannot provide any definitive answers to the question posed in the title of this post, and I believe that nobody, at this moment in time, can. What we need to do is plan for the worst case scenario and hope that it doesn’t come to pass. He who has ears, let him listen.