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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Columnist: Isabella Tetteh-Ahinakwa

Coronavirus changes business sector activities

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The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads by droplets made during close unprotected contact between people with the coronavirus and the infected, hence it spreads from person to person.

The virus first broke out in Wuhan, China in December (2019).

As of 17th April 2020, a total of over 2.2 million COVID-19 cases and tens of thousands of deaths had been reported worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The uncontrollable infection rates have leaders of various instigated the launch of emergency responses to help curb the spread of the virus. We do not know the number of people who will be infected and the number of death cases from the virus, but we do know some measures taken to reduce transmitting the virus. Some measures include cross border trade and at the local levels the temporary ban on social gatherings that includes festivals, school, churches, non-essential business trading etc. in essence , the world has currently undergone either partial or total lockdown depending on the magnitude of the infection rates.

The impact of this “social distancing” order, while well intended, can and will permanently change the ways in which work, how we socialize, coordinate and communicate in society after this pandemic is finally brought under control and flushed out. Many businesses have moved to remote working, meetings and conferences have been moved to virtual ones. All these measures began as a temporary change but sooner or later may turn to a norm as society is getting accustomed to the new social order.

What will employers and employees not do after COVID-19? It is certain that this pandemic is teaching us to reverse some of our business practices that are unhealthy environmental management. Many institutions during this time of the pandemic have moved face-to-face interaction to online platforms via the internet and simple technology tools like the smartphones or laptop. In fact, there are so many technology tools available for meetings and conferences that, after COVID-19, they will relegate face-to-face conference meetings.

Other changes that will be visible are our traditional ways of recruiting staff via face to face interview whereby candidates physically walk to the office for a job interview. HR Directors and Hiring Managers may rely more on video call interviews. We do not know how quickly these changes may occur but they will definitely happen.

Some common business greetings such as handshakes and the European doubles-cheek (triple depending on the country) kiss might be too risky after COVID-19. They may be replaced with the elbow bumps in which two people thrust forward their elbows and touch them briefly together as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the public not to shake hands.

After COVID-19 we may likely see significantly lower frequencies of business travel as well as businesses such as restaurants may likely continue with some social distancing measures when this pandemic is finally brought under control, some may ensure more spacing between tables to sit fewer. Many may operate more home delivery services. Pubs and bars especially those in the cities that have lots of customers crowding around may want to adjust to a new normal in which close contact will still be a concern to people.

This is not the first epidemic and it may not be the last but in our current predicament, let us all come together, abide by the measures given and be better prepared to face any future eventualities.