A pandemic of business and job losses
Are we in for a shock when the numbers are out on the businesses and jobs that we’ve lost as a result of the pandemic? Are giant shopping malls going the way of the dinosaurs which suffered mass extinction? There are disturbing tales of businesses that have chosen to permanently close even when lockdown rules are eased or lifted. They see the future as too uncertain or bleak. We can’t blame them. Early news reports raised hopes that a vaccine could be developed in a few months. Recently, however, an increasing number of experts, including the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, are saying that this global health crisis may linger for up to five years. Some are even raising the possibility that a vaccine may never be developed for COVID-19, citing as an example the lack of a vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) even two decades after it had started an AIDS epidemic in the West.
For businesses brave enough to reopen, they face a grim scenario: They will start operations as if they are new businesses again, but this time they are hobbled with huge monthly expenses and accumulated debts, with no guarantee of customers.
Because of quarantine restrictions, virtually all businesses closed shop all over the country, save for a few indispensable sectors. The impact has been financially and psychologically debilitating for business owners, because income abruptly dropped to zero.
I was surprised to learn from a doctor that even the livelihood of physicians and private hospitals have been severely affected, because sick people are postponing treatment if their conditions are not due to the COVID-19 virus. People skip going to clinics and hospitals for fear of contracting the virus. Many doctors are now merely seeing one to three patients daily, while many private hospitals have most of their rooms vacant.
Aside from necessity or luxury as the delineating classifications that will spell survival or closure for businesses, there are three denominators that foretell a gloomy future for business clusters.
One common denominator of many businesses that will suffer severely from this crisis is the existence of creativity as the pivotal element that has allowed them to exist and thrive. These include the following: bars and restaurants, performing and visual arts, advertising and their downstream enterprises, beauty shops and barbershops, clothing and other apparel stores, and interior design. There’s an impending atrophy of creativity because people will be on bare survival mode.
Another common denominator of a business sector that faces a dismal future is the factor of congregated people as a requirement for such businesses. These include enterprises that organize, supply, and provide venues for the following: weddings, parties, conferences, festivals/fiestas, exhibitions, and sports events. Even the business of religion (secularly viewed as operating organizations that generate funds) is severely affected by this crisis. Religions thrived because people went to churches in droves in all past crises, but not in the current one because people are prevented from congregating. There’s an expected increase in psychological depression because of a deficit in socialization.
A third common denominator of a class of businesses that faces a dim future is the element of leisure as the defining need that they provide. These include those that cater to the following: tourism, travel, casinos, swimming resorts, and sports gyms. There’s an expected rise in physical and mental health issues because of increased isolation.
The critical need for government to focus on the health aspect of the crisis is beyond question. But it must give equal attention to another emerging crisis. Our government must extend all the support and leeway it can give to our armies of businesses, for they’re the virtual equivalent of antibodies that will help our country fight off a second pandemic looming on the horizon: that of joblessness and its dreaded offspring — hunger.
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