By ANSHUMAN BHARGAVA :
“The Government’s step is thus the most appropriate and commendable one at this juncture. It gauged the seriousness of the infection way before people could.”
“The local administrations have been spurred into action and they are doing their best to compliment the lockdown by providing essential services at the doorsteps so that people don’t need to go out.”
THE lockdown regime we are having to brave is an unprecedented pan-India injunction never seen before in the country’s history. And the force of this ruling comes, obviously, from the Covid-19 pandemic which has gripped the world in rapid contagion. The world’s most advanced nations are running short of infrastructure and ideas to stem the spread. Most have faltered especially because they started off late with the measures and did not take the matter seriously early on, which pushed the virus out of control. India has done better largely because it picked the cues early and implemented the clampdown as soon as it seemed important. There were clamours from some quarters that the step was atrocious and smacked of extreme panic response, but given the global situation, even the naysayers are realising the importance of a complete lockdown.
India is a densely packed country with people living in very close vicinity of each other. Any laxity can serve as the spark to trigger a widespread infection that would be difficult to control. The only suitable way, which has become a thumb rule across nations, is to impose social distancing, i.e. lockdown. Voluntary social distancing is not possible in a country like India where people are not that law-abiding and advisories are liable to be flouted. The only option thus left is to ensure a complete curfew-like situation so that people are legally barred from going out of their homes. Unless such a clampdown is implemented, it is not possible to change people’s propensities and make them obey in letter and spirit. Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease and most likely to affect a large number of people when they come close to each other.
If the situation is still under control in India, it is largely due to the lockdown being observed for the last three days. From averaging 70-80 positive cases a day, the numbers have come down to 43 as on Wednesday. If the lockdown is observed in the right earnest, without pilferage, the figures will hopefully come down even further. This is what happened in China and this is how the lockdown in Wuhan province stemmed from the surge of cases, so much so that today it is a corona virus-free State. It is lockdown that majorly served as the antidote against the spread and India can learn a thing or two from its experiment. And importantly we people need to learn from the good and bad of the Wuhan experience to shape our behaviour in these testing times.
No Government can ensure complete safety of its people if people themselves are not alert, conscious, aware and honest with themselves and their society. We must remember that our medical infrastructure is worse than many others. No gainsaying that we have a much lesser number of doctors and a much lesser number of hospitals and beds vis-à-vis our population and medical needs compared to other advanced nations. In case of a catastrophic rise in numbers of Covid-19 patients, we are bound for trouble, in a much worse way than the US or China. This again underscores the need for home quarantine of each and every citizen so that the virus doesn’t get the opportunity to spread from people to people. The Government’s step is thus the most appropriate and commendable one at this juncture. It gauged the seriousness of the infection way before people could.
The local administrations have been spurred into action and they are doing their best to compliment the lockdown by providing essential services at the doorsteps so that people don’t need to go out. Yet, the basic precautions like frequent handwashing, wearing a mask when going out, keeping a distance from people, drinking ample fluid and enhancing immunity by proper food apart from adequate rest, etc. must be diligently followed by each of us for early solution to the crisis. As exhorted by the Prime Minister himself, companies must protect their employees, especially petty and lower grade employees by not retrenching them and deducting their salary for the 21-day period.
A mega stimulus package, as was demanded and expected, has also been unveiled by the Centre to cover the losses to businesses and help the medical sector do its best to overcome the challenges in winning this battle. The fact that in a large country like India we haven’t yet crossed the 1,000 patients mark and registered hardly 20 deaths, is itself a solace and a proof that so far, due to the Government efforts and the cooperation of the health workers and people in general, we have not done any badly— in fact, we are better off than many. This despite the fact that technically we are still behind those countries in many aspects. The adept handling of the crisis by India has been appreciated by WHO as well. The time now is to cash in on the lead and not letting things go out of control by any kind of laxity liable to creep in. Research and innovation to find a vaccination or drug for the disease have to be promoted and facilitated through funding and international exchange or sharing of ideas and technology.
New ways also have to be found to not only stop people from meeting each other but also tracking and locating those who could be potential carriers of the virus and isolating them beforehand so that the virus’ spread could be checked. The efforts have to be complicated and strenuous but even then, they have to be sustained over time till the virus is completely banished from the system. The municipal staffers, essential service providers, and health workers must not lose the momentum for they have a long day ahead. More hospitals and doctors will have to be readied to handle any exigency because of the unpredictability of the disease as to when and how it can exponentially rise.
More awareness has to be spread to instill in people the fear that the danger of the disease portends. India is a vast country and we need more manpower and resources to expand the safety net so that no potential carrier of the virus is left out even in the remotest corners. The Government needs to find out ways to address this and start shoring up whatever is required – from masks and medicines to safety kit for doctors and testing kits for patients —because sooner or later we may have to go through still tougher times in the future and only early preparedness could save us. By the way, we have to be still better armed with a more robust redressal system to wade through the troubled times because we never know what surprises can come our way in the days ahead.