Ramnik Shah

Ramnik Shah, born in Kenya, practiced law in Nairobi from 1964 to ’74 and then for the next 30 years in England, where since retirement he has been engaged in academic research and writing on migration and diaspora related subjects and general literature. His first book ‘Empire’s Child’ has just been published.

Website: ramnikshah.blogspot.com

London Calling by Ramnik Shah

As I write this we are in the grip of a truly international health crisis. Originating in China, in December 2019, hence no doubt its scientific moniker Covid-19, coronavirus has rapidly spread across most parts of the world in the first three months of this year and become a global pandemic. So 2020 has not had an auspicious beginning; how it will pan out remains to be seen.

I have changed the opening of this piece and the rest of the planned content several times already, because we are dealing with a fast-moving scenario with constant updates on all fronts and the story should be familiar to everyone anyway.   

What has happened so far is truly earth-shaking: border closures; flight bans; cancellation of sports fixtures, public gatherings and other events; declarations of states of emergency - these are just some of the universal responses to coronavirus.  In individual countries, other measures taken reflect local concerns and conditions.  In the UK, municipal and mayoral elections have been postponed for a whole year, schools have closed for an indefinite period and the latest casualty are cafes, bars and restaurants and leisure establishments which were ordered to shut down with immediate effect, something that did not happen even during World War II. In Italy, Spain and France, severe restrictions on movement of people have been imposed, with residents having to show evidence of a valid reason for being outside their homes.  Elsewhere, there are reports of curfews, quarantines and lockdowns; we expect these here too.

Businesses, including airlines and other travel related enterprises, are in dire straits. Stocks and shares and other financial markets have also suffered significant losses or downturns.  Governments, certainly in the developed countries, have taken emergency steps to prop up all sectors of the economy and to alleviate the suffering of their respective populations. In the UK, a most generous package of measures on an unprecedented scale has been announced to safeguard jobs and support employers.

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