It came. It spread. It conquered.
Ever since Wuhan reported its patient zero for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in November, 2019, the world has not been able to heave a sigh of relief. The virus has penetrated and continues to penetrate into receptacles of almost every country you can name – the burden being distributed asymmetrically. The streets have been deserted, flights and trains have been suspended, companies have come to a standstill, and the common man has been trapped inside the four walls of his own house – for a period of time that even the highest authorities are unable to state. Quarantine and social distancing have taken the role of those uninvited guests in our day-to-day life, who barge inside without a knock. Hygiene and sanitisation practices have taken birth as a new religion, while people all around are going frenzy over immunity boosting techniques. As healthcare and pharma giants worldwide struggle to find a potential cure, SMEs and start-ups are also joining forces and working round-the-clock amid this invisible battle – or rather microscopically-visible battle. Albeit, keeping the possibility of mass commercial availability of a viable vaccine at bay, let us break down and scrutinise the consequences of this pandemic on businesses – sector by sector.
For a sector, which had been trying to overcome myriad challenges already, the outbreak of COVID-19 was no less than a curse. New constructions stopped and sales took a hit. The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on economy have pushed sentiment in real estate to its all-time lowest level in the quarter that ended in March. Both residential and commercial real estate sectors are expected to be hit in term of launches, sales, and prices. The residential sector which already had concerns of weak demand will find it difficult to launch new projects and complete the ongoing ones due to construction halts and labour shortage. The mood of the stakeholders as regards to the overall economy and the real estate sector has been in the pessimistic zone in the second and third quarter of 2020 due to credit squeeze and overall economic slowdown. In the first week of the lockdown itself, over 30 per cent construction workers stopped reporting to work at sites due to fear of infection. Many have moved back to villages and are unlikely to return soon. Across the country, around 18,000 projects are under construction and are impacted by these developments.
The chances of a prompt revival of the realty sector post the pandemic, are also shabby. A health emergency that has force-launched the biggest ever work from home experiment globally, putting a question mark on the relevance of workspaces in a post-coronavirus world. If a majority of the population would be working from their homes indefinitely then the question of tentantship and paying guests also disappears completely – since employees choose these options only to live in proximity of their offices. At present, Government also urged landowners not to take rents from tenants until the lockdown ceases completely.