COVID-19 could have been a global health challenge. That is bad enough, with the pandemic altering life and living, more than any single phenomenon, in living memory.
But its real pestilence would appear economic. It is getting clear: COVID-19 won’t leave the globe in a hurry. But even after it does, its economic plague would linger. That is grim news already making 2020 a year to forget, even when it is barely half-year.
The effect of COVID-19, as a rippling, ruthless job tornado, is underscored by the latest stats from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which states 42 per cent of Nigerian workers have lost their jobs, no thanks to the COVID-19 storm.
By that NBS survey, 42 per cent of those polled said they lost the jobs they had, pre-COVID-19. That’s a breath short of half of the putative working population. Now, add underemployment — vastly reduced clientele/customer traffic, no thanks COVID-19 lockdown at its highest.
Add temporary job losses, from forced leaves, to be reviewed as the pandemic peters out. Add even salary cuts, forced by businesses’ lower earnings, as a result of diving sales and vanishing clientele, and you could be talking of a cumulative range of about 55 per cent to 60 per cent. That is no gravy to savour!
Of course, it goes without saying, the follow-up NBS finding: that 79 per cent of the polled respondents (that’s almost four out of every five) revealed their income had taken a hit, since mid-March, when the COVID-19 emergency started in the country.
Again, it logically follows: lower income translates to lower demand of goods and services. Between 35 per cent and 59 per cent of the respondents said they found it increasingly difficult to buy routine staples — rice, yam and beans — to feed. Another 26 per cent said they could no longer afford medical treatment.
So, no thanks to COVID-19, the poverty situation is worsened, with a section of the poor no longer able to afford the little food they could hitherto muster. This segment of the population also progressively gets crowded out of the healthcare market.
Thus, COVID-19 is a double-whammy, among the most vulnerable: increased poverty and decreased wellness! When slightly more than half of the population (51 per cent resort to reducing food consumption: enduring some form of hunger) and another (26 per cent) cut down on medical needs, and probably resort to self-medication), then you have a grim situation.
O dear! The medical market gets attacked from two ends. If less people than hitherto could afford hospital services, it logically follows that each hospital would earn less cash to pay its medics: doctors and nurses, not to talk of the paramedics and other back-up staff.
Then the direct impact: fear of cropping COVID-19! Many private clinics have closed shop, simply because they can’t muster the additional COVID-19 protective kits. That is temporary job losses for the clinics involved. It could also mean a severe business-changing blow, for those clinics would have to summon more capital to procure those gears (yet are faced with lower earnings). If they hope to be in business, post-COVID-19, they are faced with a completely altered business paradigm!
Surely it’s not the best of times? That is why it calls for radically new thinking that would trigger the capacity to adjust.
Indeed, adjust or die! That would be the COVID-19-19 battle cry, even well into the post-COVID-19 globe! It’s not the best of times!