coronavirus emergence

The COVID-19 virus has global spread. The whole world is dealing with the monumental crisis. Urban centres have turned into ghost towns. The pandemic has brought to the fore policy loopholes and failures. People all over the world are looking for surviving through the lockdown. Basics of food, shelter and health are historically underlined. Work has seized. The realization of no work meaning no food is intense. In absence of work, millions are queuing for food. Countries after countries, absence of work have led to shelter insecurity for tenants. Payment of rent is driving concern for people cutting across income brackets. Developed countries are paying rent for tenants who can’t pay to landlords. Air-bed and breakfast (Airbnb) has been taken over to house homeless. Everywhere we are witnessing stronger public support for greater public investment in the public health system.

Migrant workers of urban India feels stranded and is looking for food, cash and repatriation. Citizens of United States are losing jobs and income and facing difficulties in accessing unemployment and stimulus money. Several federal stimulus programs have been rolled out with concern that big business is ripping off small business programs. In Italy people on rent are not able to pay rent as income has fast disappeared with shut down of its economic powerhouses of tourism and eateries. Paying rent is also a concern in Canada. British Columbia province is paying 500 Canadian dollars to landlords if tenants can’t pay rent. Canada expects 4 million Canadians to apply for emergency job loss funding. Fifty three per cent of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. The welfare system of England is under lot of pressure. It has banned eviction for three months and setting up legal protocol for landlords and tenants to negotiate rent repayment. Homeless are housed in hostels and hotels. Under furlough scheme, 80% salary is being paid to workers. Scotland has gone an extra mile and has banned eviction for six months. Airbnb has been repossessed for homeless people.  Ireland has also banned eviction for three months and rent increases have been suspended. Welfare payment is universalised at 200 per person per week and 350 per week sick payment. France too has banned eviction for three months. Special allowance of 150 euros for every poor family is provisioned. Six per cent of people in France have no more revenue at all. 135 Euros are fined for being outside. In Liberia, costs on internet and cell calls have increased. Lack of electricity during the lockdown is a major concern. Government of Liberia has sanctioned 4 million to Liberia Electricity Corporation for free power in four counties out of fifteen. Only a small population is benefiting from free electricity during the lockdown. In Kenya its chaos and hunger is a huge issue. Same is the case in Peru. Honduras is only sending food to hot spots like the areas around San Pedro Sula and Cortez. The Czech republic has quarantined all citizens and eviction ban has been extended for the whole quarantine period. The Czech govt is paying those who must stay at home with children. Small businesses are given 20 Euros everyday. In Cameroon water and electricity supply is a big concern.

With crisis comes an opportunity. An opportunity needs to be seized. We can come out stronger from the present crisis if we learn the right lessons and correct our policy framework to make the world more inclusive, equitable and sustainable. The crisis is demanding to look at basics. We need to think afresh. Globalization is on the table in new avatar. Solutions can be locally available across the globe. The virus has globalized us in many ways and alerts to the sinking ship of present socio-economic life. But, it’s never too late. Let’s start with the basic first of provisioning good food, secured fair job, decent housing and modern public health for all. It all must be good. Good for all; all humans, non-humans and the nature.

Dharmendra Kumar is a Delhi based activist. He has been working on issues of labour, food and trade policy. His works include “Trade Invaders: how big business is driving EU-India FTA”, “A Future of Co-existence? Hawkers and the impact of corporate and chain retail” and “Agri-retail: Implications for the weakest links in the supply chain”.  He can be contacted at



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