Work from home to social distancing: How Mumbai is gearing up to fight the coronavirus outbreak
Mitesh Bhuvad

One of the biggest topics of discussion during the coronavirus pandemic is the concept of social distancing.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), social distancing is the act of maintaining at least one-metre (or three feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This number is different, however, for different nations. For example, in the United States the distance is six feet or two metres.

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also adhered WHO’s guidelines regarding social distancing, but added that there was no need to panic as there were adequate facilities available for testing.

Having said that, going by Mahesh Murthy’s tweets, while facilities may be available, is there enough action being taken?

But let’s come back to social distancing and how it can play out in Mumbai. Many companies have already spoken about having a work from home policy with The Times of India’s MD Vineet Jain subtly suggesting a work from home policy, given all the tech that is available in this day and age.

Some leading news publications have even considered a work from home policy, but there is no official statement regarding the same.

Prashant Deorah, MD of Puretech Digital, a Mumbai-based digital marketing agency told Free Press Journal that the company has told its employees to stay extremely safe and shared a communication with everyone. "We have asked them to stay at home if their temperature is above 100 degree C, or if they have a cold, cough or throat irritation. We have a clear work from home guideline and encourage our teams to avail it. However, in a situation like this we have to ensure nobody contracts the virus so there is more flexibility given. We have also encouraged our employees to avoid client meetings as much as possible and have discussions through conference calls," he said.

Shalvi Mangaokar Biswas, who heads content for Little Black Book (LBB) (West and North) says that all travel within the country has been suspended until further notice. “Further, the company that operates out of a co-working space in Mumbai has broken up their team to work in shifts starting next week. We have also disabled biometrics, and have installed hand sanitizers in every room of our office, so that people are safe.”

Biswas adds that while there will be some urgent meetings that require physical presence, the company is doing its best to ensure that such meetings are few and far between.

While companies are doing their bit, so is the public transport system in Mumbai. Western Railway, Central Railway, and BEST have put out posters telling commuters to stay safe. While several commuters, too, are trying to work from home, the bulk of them still manage to board locals during rush hour and stand on the footboards of trains, and recreate Ramdas Athavle’s iconic video on the corona virus.

So, while advisories are in place, it’s still difficult to determine whether India can treat the problem if it escalates. Currently, while the number ‘73’ sounds grim, India should consider itself lucky that the number is still under 100.

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