There’s no shortage of views around how the coronavirus should be handled — everyone from politicians to policymakers have been debating around how to best mitigate the crisis. But several top entrepreneurs seem to be agreed on one thing: the time has come for governments to ease the lockdown.
Over the last few days, Elon Musk, Narayan Murthy and Sachin Bansal have all independently asked for relaxations in the coronavirus lockdowns. Elon Musk has been a coronavirus skeptic since the very beginning, tweeting that the coronavirus panic was “dumb” in the early days of the crisis. But as the pandemic spread, Musk seemed to take the crisis more seriously, and Tesla helped deliver ventilators to hospitals in the US. Musk has now urged the US government to end the lockdown. “Give people their freedom back!” he tweeted, while sharing an article which claimed that data suggested that in most places, lockdowns weren’t saving too many lives.
Give people their freedom back! https://t.co/iG8OYGaVZ0
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020
Similar thoughts were echoed by Narayan Murthy in India. “What is important for us to understand is that India cannot continue in this situation for too long,” Murthy said about the lockdown. “Because at some point of time, deaths due to hunger will far outweigh deaths due to coronavirus,” he added. Murthy noted that India’s mortality rate is relatively lower than many developed nations, and added that India has been able to flatten the curve in most places due to the lockdown. The Infosys founder also pointed out that many individuals in the informal or unorganised sector will lose their jobs if the lockdown continues for a long time.
Former Flipkart CEO Sachin Bansal said much the same. “We can’t lock ourselves up for 2 years in homes waiting for a vaccine. India can’t make use of the opportunities if our most productive people are locked in their homes. With COVID’s growth slowing down it’s time to open up the economy. We have to learn to live with the virus,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whoever wants to stay at home can stay. And for folks who are venturing out should maintain precautions but allowed to work if they wish to,” he wrote.
Whoever wants to stay at home can stay. And for folks who are venturing out should maintain precautions but allowed to work if they wish to.
— Sachin Bansal (@_sachinbansal) April 29, 2020
Now business leaders come with their own biases while making these pronouncements — Elon Musk’s Tesla factories haven’t been operating at full capacity because of the lockdown, and Sachin Bansal, who has ploughed most of his Flipkart fortune into fintech companies, is presumably seeing all that capital lying around not being used. Governments, of course, have to deal with much broader concerns — apart from the economy, they also need to make sure that their citizens are safe and healthy. But as governments weigh the costs and benefits of easing the coronavirus lockdown, it does appear that most business leaders are quite squarely in one camp around how the lockdown should be handled.