The Indian Medical Association stated earlier this month that a “full, well-planned, pre-announced national lockdown” for 10 to 15 days would allow the country’s overburdened health system to “recoup and replenish both the material and people” it requires. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US Coronavirus adviser, stated on May 9: “You’ve got to shut down… you’ve got to stop the chain of transmission.”
According to experts, shutting down the country again is not a feasible option. When the first wave of the virus struck India in March 2020, Modi declared a nationwide lockdown hours before it went into effect, closing state borders, prohibiting inter-state travel, stopping businesses, and ordering everyone to stay at home.
This lockdown, which lasted nearly four months, assisted India in controlling the spread of coronavirus, but it came at a terrible cost, leaving the country’s poorest and most vulnerable without money or food, and sometimes stuck far from home. This time, Modi says a countrywide shutdown is a “last option.”
The poorest people in India were the worst hurt
India has reported more over 24 million cases since the outbreak began, trailing behind the United States. Over 270,000 individuals have perished as a result of the disaster. According to the Indian Institute of Science prediction model, with the present rate of spread, India’s case counts might reach 50 million by June 11, with 400,000 deaths.
According to the estimate, a national 15-day lockdown might save 100,000 lives and keep 20 million people from contracting the virus. According to the model, the longer the lockdown, the more cases are expected to fall. A statewide shutdown, on the other hand, poses its own set of health dangers, particularly for India’s impoverished.
“The past year’s experience has shown us that economic closures are particularly disruptive to the weakest parts of society,” according to an April report from the Lancet’s Covid-19 Commission India Task Force. “In urban regions, daily wage earners, informal sector workers, and low-skill workers are the most likely to suffer from economic disruptions.”
Ajnesh Prasad, a professor and Canada Research Chair in the School of Business at Royal Roads University, said “If we talk about the urban poor, it’s impossible for them to observe these directives,” Prasad said. “They will tell you that observing these directives would be tantamount to starving themselves to death.” Population density complicates problems even more; according to the World Bank, over 35% of India’s urban population lives in slums, where households lack basic living space and sanitation services.
In densely populated slum neighbourhoods, a complete family may share one small room and a bathroom with other families. It is impossible to remove yourself from people, and it is impractical to expect movement without the possibility of viral transmission.
Millions of people have been pushed into poverty
The first lockout plunged much of the country into poverty; the number of individuals earning $2 or less per day in India is estimated to have increased by 75 million as a result of the Covid recession, according to the Pew Research Center. “The shutdown had a significant economic and social cost,” said Chandrika Bahadur, chair of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force. “Because of the abrupt nature of the announcement, the vast majority of the country was caught off guard in terms of the ramifications for money, food, security of tenure, and safety.” As a result, both the federal and state governments were caught off guard by the migration crisis”.
The economic disruption caused by the initial lockdown has also given India’s government “less policy leeway to manoeuvre,” according to Bahadur.
Because of India’s unique topography, population density is concentrated in select centres – and while the virus can spread everywhere, its impacts are felt more intensely in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Each state also has varying levels of resource availability, particularly health-care capacity. A statewide lockdown would leave little room for state and local governments to respond to the pandemic in ways that were appropriate for their own circumstances.
The Lancet’s Covid-19 Commission India Task Force advocated against a “blanket national or state shutdown” in its April report. Instead, it supported measures like limiting venues for large meetings and encouraging white-collar workers to work from home – but encouraged the government to ease limitations on the rural and urban poor.
According to Bahadur, the Task Force is now pushing for isolated but coordinated closures based on two variables: disease transmission and medical preparation.
“The fundamental point is that there are no easy yes or no answers to a very sophisticated collection of questions,” Bahadur explained. “In a country with such diversity, localised decisions, guided by a common science and evidence-based approach, and accompanied by a strong coordinated reaction, are our greatest shot for success.”
(News input: CNN)