The effects of extended quarantine have left many at a loss on what to do or expect in the months to come. The International Labor Organization (ILO) stated in the past week that COVID-19 shaved 6.7% off the working hours of 195 million people, with many at risk of losing their jobs. ILO economist Christian Viegelahn stated that monetary support for enterprises, as well as workers’ protection, can help soften the blow of the crisis. But even then, it is only a temporary fix to a long-term problem.
The pandemic has caught many in construction off guard.
People around the world are feeling the repercussions of the pandemic from a financial standpoint. Even with the danger of the pandemic, there are companies who are already planning to go back to work which may come tentatively in waves.
So where does that leave the local construction sector?
Numerous local infrastructure projects were put on indefinite hold as a precautionary measure against the contagious nature of COVID-19. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has even started to consider dropping infrastructure projects in favor of funding relief efforts.
While it may seem like the entire construction industry is at a standstill, that is not the case. Right now, most construction efforts are being directed to assisting frontliners such as conversion of sports centers into healthcare facilities. These efforts are being overseen by the venue owners, as well as several government officials and the Department of Works and Highways (DPWH).
The DPWH has also recently resumed major roadblocking and repair work to the roads of Metro Manila, including EDSA, Roxas Boulevard, and C5 Roads. This was done to ensure a smooth traversal of essential services.
Outside of coronavirus-related efforts, there is very little any can do about the situation besides speculating and waiting for the pandemic to pass over. According to Megawide CEO Edgar Saavedra, he believes that it may take about two months for the local construction industry to recover from the effects of the lockdown. With this circumstance in mind, he emphasized the importance of rolling-out of government-funded infrastructure projects to help stimulate the economy.
Such sentiments are also shared by Keith Prather, a marketing intelligence expert for a Kansas-based business management consulting firm. Prather believes that things will go back to normal in a few months once the infection rate flattens and work restrictions mellow down.
In the end, it all circles back to the argument of general worker safety vs. the need to bring the economy back to life. In theory, it is possible to have both so long as the job can be done with social distancing and the implementation of remote working. Companies should also take the time to assess its capabilities and plan for the future should a similar scenario occur again.
At present, there is not much any of us can do besides waiting and adhering to quarantine rules. No doubt it will be a while before this world will truly heal from this pandemic, but hopefully, companies, construction firms, and the likes will be able to find a way to get back on its feet in spite of everything. The industry just needs time to figure out what the best approach is in uncertain times such as this.