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May 03, 2020 Sunday 07:38:42 PM IST

Going Round A Coronavirus!

Image by Diyah Sreekumar


The other day I was talking to my friend in Bangalore over phone and naturally the talk was mostly about the lockdown and its aftermath. The term 'flattening the curve' came up a few times and my daughter Diyah overheard it. Later, she started asking what has Covid-19 to do with economics or mathematics! Having seen a couple of economics books in my table full of charts and models, this question from her wasn't quite surprising. 
The novel corona virus is supposed to have gone through several mutations but everywhere in the media it has been represented as a ball-shaped organism with spikes. It has been ingrained in the minds of children that whatever cartoons or pictures they draw about Covid they naturally depict that shape. Funnily enough in a competition titled Covitoons organised by Pallikkutam (www.facebook.com/pallikkutamcovitoons), children were depicted as driving away the Covid-19 ball shaped virus with a kick. Still others depicted people locked up inside with face masks and gloves in complete confidence that the ball-shaped virus moving outside will never enter. Then, naturally one tends to look at coincidences!
It is often said that if you can simply utter the two words demand and supply, you can teach economics to parrots! The ‘flattening the curve’ diagram which is now widely shared shows two curves plotted along a graph with number of corona cases depicted on the Y-axis and time shown in the X-axis. In badly affected countries the curve will have a rounded shape like the hump of a camel. When the number of positive cases fall, the curve will flatten. This is a simple graphic which is being used by experts to convey in simple terms the reality of the pandemic. 
To make matters simple for my daughter, I made her draw the rounded and flattening curves in a graph both having corona virus. In the rounded curve, the virus is full-blown and round while it gets flattened in the second curve. (See Picture above)
Round faces
As you go out in the street, you again come across round faces-people struggling inside facemasks and singing praises of the medical personnel who keep it on throughout the duty hours. New designs with protrusions that turns your face into a dog’s snout. It remains to be seen how many new innovative designs will come out in the market as we are destined to wear it for years to come. Again, concerns about heaps of disposed facemasks piling up in rivers and seashores were brought to light. It again represented the ‘round or hump’ shape of ‘flattening the curve’ concept that has come to symbolise the discussions on pandemic spread. 

U, V, W Shape Recovery?
Even as everything seems round about the pandemic, the economists are worried about economies that have turned flat. Who thought only engineers, architects and medical men are the only ones to think in terms of shapes! The traditionally ‘curvy’ people the economists are discussing about what will be the shape of global economic recovery.  Will it be U, V or W? V or U-shaped recoveries are possible only if certain sections of the economy are opened and people go back to work. This means there is no further spread of the virus and effective vaccines are developed. But die-hard pessimists argue that rapid lifting of lockdown can cause a W-shaped recovery where a rebound will be followed by a relapse. That is indeed bad. 
As I was finishing off this piece, my wife raised the alarm about my rounding tummy caused by lack of exercise. Again, caused by this dreaded round Coronavirus!

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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