As the number of COVID-19 cases crossed the 10,000 mark with more than 300 deaths, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the biggest lockdown ever till 3rd May 2020.
The three-week lockdown that started from the midnight of 25th March was scheduled to end at midnight on 14th April. However, with a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases across the nation, the Government decided to continue the lockdown for another 19 days. Mumbai, the financial capital has the highest number of cases so far, followed by the capital city New Delhi. The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has also reported more than 1,000 cases so far.
The Prime Minister in his televised address said that the nation has paid a high price in terms of economy, but the lives of people of India are far more valuable. He urged the nation of 1.3 billion people to maintain the lockdown discipline for a few more days.
He has requested the citizens to support in 7 points –
- Since the elderly and people with low immunity are more prone to infection, PM appealed to the nation to take extra care of the senior citizens in the family
- He urged people to follow lockdown restrictions and practice social distancing
- He also requested people to adopt guidelines issued by the the Aayush Ministry to boost immunity
- He also requested people to download the Aarogya Setu app, which has been launched by the Government to mitigate the spread of the virus
- Help poor and helpless as much as you can
- He also asked companies and businessmen not to terminate their employees in this time of crisis
- He appealed to citizens to respect the ‘corona warriors’ – doctors, nurses, police officers, and sanitation workers
The 21-day lockdown was announced soon after the success of Janta Curfew on 22nd March, a step that the World Health Organization has said to be a timely, strong, and comprehensive step. Being the second-most populous country in the world, there have been concerns from WHO about the possibility of the spread of COVID-19 in India because if it happens, the picture will be worse than Europe, USA, and China.
Keeping in mind gravity of the situation and statistics of the coronavirus infections across the length and breadth of the nation, lockdown 2.0 was announced.
Video Source – India TV
With The Pandemic Holding Its Ground Stronger, How Is India Faring in Its War Against COVID-19?
With the outbreak of Covid-19 in India, the handling of foreign travelers and airport protocols, testing strategies, ill-equipped health care workers, and poor-handling of migrant workers have already become hot topics for debates. However, all this is understandable in a situation like this, when the country is at war with a pandemic.
With infections and death counts rising, the panic-stricken citizens confined to their homes are closely monitoring the news coming in from both home and abroad. The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers, insufficient testing, train coaches converted to quarantine facilities, and to top it all, Doctors are being attacked and even getting infected; the amount of fear is mounting.
The halted economy, unsettled lives, and unemployment have pushed India into a deeper crisis. The hardships of millions of migrant workers and daily wage laborers are one of the biggest challenges that the country faces.
However, if we look at the bigger picture, the timely lockdown was the only and best step that could have been taken by the Government to break the chain of the virus. If statistics are to be considered, had this 21-day lockdown not happened, by 15th April, India would have had more than 8 lakh cases.
The three-week lockdown was a preemptive step that the Government had taken to put in containment measures and identify hotspots. The statistical analysis done by the health ministry states that India would have registered a 41% cumulative rise in the number of COVID-19 cases if there was no lockdown and any containment measures. In case only containment measures were put in place without a lockdown, then the cases would have reached 120,000 by 15th April.
The efforts to promote and stress on social distancing and following lockdown rules were started early to flatten the curve.
Efforts By The Centre And State Governments To Fight COVID-19
To begin with, the strategy followed by India to deal with this pandemic was to identify and treat the severe cases since the health care system is not that robust as in other countries. Even before the 21-day lockdown was announced, mass gatherings were discouraged.
The Government released travel advisories for people coming from abroad. People who were coming from coronavirus infected nations had to mandatorily quarantine themselves for 14 days once they enter India. Besides that, the screening at the airports had already begun early. Proactive steps were taken to spread awareness about the diseases among the masses, to identify and prepare quarantine facilities, and to train health care workers on this infection.
All the advisories that were released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare were made enforceable by law. Self-reporting by people who had a travel history was also encouraged. The state governments of Delhi, Punjab, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, and Kerala issued advisories on public gatherings.
The state of Kerala has so far been applauded for its strategy in dealing with this deadly virus. They have done extensive testing and have recently begun to use rapid testing kits made by MyLabs for testing asymptomatic cases as well. This kit gives results within 2 hours. Besides that, Kerala has also set up walk-in testing booths, just like South Korea.
Maharashtra is the worst-hit state with the largest number of cases and the highest number of reported deaths due to COVID-19. According to reports, the state has reported large numbers since they are doing more testing, and most of the patients that have died were in the high-risk category- 60 years of above in age and with comorbidities. The BMC identifies 241 hotspots in Mumbai, and those areas have been sealed to control the spread.
Delhi Government has launched ‘Operation Shield’ to control further spread of the virus. Under this operation, the health-care workers are doing door-to-door visits to check for COVID-19 cases. The operation also involves sealing of the hotspots, contact tracing, and home isolation. The first success of this operation has been Dilshad Garden which was one of the hotspots in Delhi, with no new cases in the last 10 days the area was declared ‘corona free’ by the Delhi Government.
Wearing of masks when people step out of their homes has been made compulsory by most of the states.
Medication And Vaccines
According to reports, the country is in the process of developing four different vaccines for COVID-19. Rapid testing kits have already been developed to reduce the cost of testing, such as the MyLabs testing kit in Kerala. Besides that, the country is also ramping up the production of face masks and PPEs.
India is also gearing up to do clinical trials on the use of plasma therapy for treating severe cases. Under this, the antibodies from the cured patients would be given to the infected. The plasma therapy has given three positive results so far in the USA and India, and the trials may happen in Kerala.
However, despite the efforts from both the Central and State Government and the stringent lockdown and containment measures being put in place, India’s poor population is the worst affected.
On The Economy
The effects of lockdown are visible on the Indian economy. According to reports, the national restaurant association has warned that there could be a ‘social unrest’ if they do not receive financial relief considering the huge number of people employed in this sector. Even the commerce ministry is urging the Government to allow them to restart a few activities with reasonable safeguards since lockdown is extended. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das has called this pandemic as an “invisible assassin.”
Indian farmers are not getting enough labor to harvest their crops. This is the harvesting time of the year when villagers make money to finance themselves for the rest of the year. The grounding of thousands of trucks due to lockdown has also hampered the food transport system.
Even before coronavirus made its way to Asia’s second-biggest economy, India was stumbling with high unemployment rates. According to experts, growth could slump down by 1.5-2% this year, which would be way below the level that is required to provide jobs to millions of people entering the job market per month.
The announcement of an extended lockdown has come amidst the discussions and debates. In countries across the world on how to lift the restrictions without increasing the infection rate. Countries like Italy and Australia are in the process of reopening some shops, and Spain is considering restarting the construction and factories. At the same time, France has extended the tight lockdown for one more month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India has paid a high economic price by imposing the lockdown. However, the only silver lining is that it is better placed than many other countries since it acted quickly.
On The Jobless And Homeless
The strict limitation on activities across the nation has not only been devastating for the Indian economy but the poor as well. Millions of daily wagers lost their jobs, and thousands were forced to take a trek back to their villages, mostly on foot.
The spread of pandemic made many jobless and homeless lose their living. Some died on the way while the community shunned others as they made their way back to their home towns. Many are still stranded in cities and are living in unhygienic conditions where the chances of the spread of the virus are high.
Although New Delhi has made quite a few efforts to manage this issue by making shelter homes and providing free food to thousands of people.
On the last day of 21-day lockdown, thousands of migrant jobless laborers gathered at Mumbai’s railway station in the hope that they would be allowed to travel back to their hometowns. The plight of these workers can give chills down the spine.
What To Expect In This Extended Lockdown?
The decision to extend the lockdown has come after the Prime Minister met with all the Chief Ministers, where most of them voted for an extension. The challenge now is to stop the spread of the virus in the new parts of the country.
It is being said that a few restrictions in areas that are far away from the hotspots would be eased after 20th April to help those whose life depends on daily earnings. Each state and district will be monitored closely to see whether the rules of lockdown are followed and if that area can protect itself from the virus. In case, there are no new cases reported in such areas than the Government may give some relaxation.
This extended lockdown was necessary with so many crowded cities across the nation. There are fears that the numbers could hit the roof and overwhelm the already wobbly health care system. Some experts also believe that since India has not done enough tests, the real number of infected cases could be much higher.
Will The Lockdown Live Up To Its Billing?
The economic and humanitarian disaster that this lockdown has unleashed will have ripple effects. However, in a big and populous country like India, this could be the only way to fight in this war.
According to reports, the country’s graph has tapered a bit in the last week after shooting up in the previous two weeks. The decision to extend the lockdown will prevent the country from entering stage 3, which means community transmission of the virus. According to a report from the Health Ministry, no new cases have been reported in 25 districts in 15 states in the last two weeks.
We can only hope and pray that lockdown 2.0 helps in breaking the chain and make India emerge as a winner in its fight against COVID-19.