How will the COVID-19 second wave impact the construction sector?

[] We look at the real estate and construction industry’s preparedness to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons learnt from the first wave

The construction industry, vis-à-vis real estate projects, has manifested an eagerness to learn from the events that unfolded and impacted it in 2020. As a result, while the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is raging with greater ferocity across cities, the industry has anticipated and dealt with, over the past several months, factors such as the mass migration by labourers, the clampdown on construction work and the scare of the unknown.

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Support measures for construction workers amid COVID-19 second wave

All major developers like Brookfield, Embassy, DLF, Raheja, etc., have given primary attention to setting up labour accommodation and infrastructure support, to take care of the workers, by providing food, shelter and healthcare. For projects that started or resumed after June 2020, we have witnessed the owner or the developer pursue an undertaking from the contractors that food supply, shelter and healthcare of the workers are addressed and considered in the bid offers. This, in essence, has made the project development initiative more robust. Weekly health check-ups have been organised in most large and moderate-scale projects. Such measures have reassured the workers that even if there is a two or three-week lockdown, they will receive the necessary support required for their survival.

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While there have been reports of a large number of workers returning to their hometowns from Delhi or Mumbai, the scale of such migration has been much lower than last year. Ensuring and enabling infrastructure at sites to support workers has, thus, helped projects to continue, unlike in 2020.

Will Coronavirus lead to a ban on construction activities?

The government’s response to the situation has also changed, since the first wave. In 2020, construction sites were considered to be time-bombs for the spread of the Coronavirus infection. In reality, on resumption of work, construction sites reported cases that were much lower than that at residential areas in any given city. The practical measures ensured that construction sites were no longer considered as health and safety hazard zones. The industry has sent a solid message to all stakeholders involved in such construction work. Hence, no ban on construction has, thus far, been put in place by the authorities.

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Impact of digital and online mediums on the construction industry

Finally, in the months that followed the resumption of site activities in 2020, after COVID, all key stakeholders explored and introduced working, conferring and meeting practices through online coordination or remote interaction. This is potentially futuristic and ensures low impact on project design development, bidding and work award.

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While the current surge of Coronavirus cases will bring a temporary suspension to the rhythm of work, the above factors have made the construction industry resilient and ready to pick up and move forward at a good pace, once the severity dies down and normalcy resumes.

However, we can anticipate that towns and cities in states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will have higher ease and availability of construction workers due to some reverse migration.

In the ultimate analysis, the construction industry seems poised to march back to its usual rhythm, post the COVID crisis.

(The writer is managing director – project management (north India) at Colliers)

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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