New Delhi: As India confirmed 519 cases of COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (March 24) imposed a complete lockdown in the nation to contain the coronavirus outbreak. 40 of these 519 cases have managed a recovery whereas nine people have lost their lives to the virus. The lockdown comes in force in a bid to tackle the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus. The state governments and the union territory administrations have been further advised to impose curfew wherever necessary if people continue to go out of their homes.
The state governments have been conveyed that public gatherings could lead to escalation of the prevailing situation as so far 519 positive cases have been reported from different parts of the country, informed a government official.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, meanwhile, has written a letter to State Chief Secretaries urging them to monitor the situation round the clock. Mr. Gauba said additional restrictions if necessary may be imposed and all current restrictions must be enforced strongly. All violations should be met with legal action, the Cabinet Secretary told the states and UTs. This lockdown also includes a suspension of public vehicles, Indian Railways as well as domestic and international flights until further notice.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to state governments to ensure that rules and regulations of the coronavirus lockdown are enforced strictly as he noted that many people were not following the measures seriously.
Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously. Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously. I request state governments to ensure rules and laws are followed, PM Modi had previously said in a tweet.
The lockdown comes after the country of 1.3 billion people, practiced the world’s biggest exercise in social distancing on Sunday, March 22. With ‘Janta Curfew’ Indians across the nation were requested to observe a self-imposed quarantine for 14 hours, from 7 am to 9 pm.
With the extreme measures and the legal consequence taken to enforce a lockdown in the country, the question arises – how beneficial are these lockdowns against the community transmission of COVID-19?
According to the WHO, abut 1.7 billion people around the globe have been ordered to stay inside their homes by their governments in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes developed nations like the United Kingdom, parts of United States of America, Italy, among others, whereas New Zealand is all set to join this list.
On the other hand, Chinese authorities announced travel restrictions in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, would be lifted on Wednesday. This excludes Wuhan, where the first case of the virus was reported in late 2019, as it would be lifted on 8 April. Wuhan has been under lockdown since 23 January. This comes after China recorded a downward trend in the COVID-19 cases since a few weeks.
Experts say that the lockdown may play out in different ways for different countries, for example, when it comes to Singapore, the country never had to impose a lockdown and yet reported 266, COVID-19 positive cases with no causality. Singapore’s infection rate is much slower than the rest of the world and this could be attributed to their strong health sector.
Padma Shri awardee, Dr P Raghu Ram, President of The Association of Surgeons of India, told NDTV that the “Janata Curfew” created the much-needed awareness about the importance of social distancing. He further says that this will help people understand the impact of social distancing in minimising the transmission of the virus in the community.
This initiative in many ways prepared the country for more days of such self-imposed lockdown. The doubling time for COVID 19 in India is between 5 – 6 days. So, the effect of the Janata Curfew held on March 22 and the subsequent lockdown across the nation should hopefully result in a break in the transmission and a drop in the number of new cases being diagnosed from March 27 onwards. The main aim of the lockdown is to enable social distancing, he explained.
He cites the examples of countries such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and China that have been able to “flatten the curve”.
This includes the measures that keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers, through various initiatives including social distancing. This said, a large proportion of people in India who work in the unorganised sector and cannot afford the luxury to Work from Home. For manual labourers, no work means no food. It is also an irony that those who can afford to stay at home to ensure ‘social distancing’ have domestic helpers at their homes because they don’t get paid otherwise. Also, there are many in India who live in crowded homes, Dr. Ram said.
Dr. Ram asserts that social distancing will only be effective when the entire community participates in this initiative. He says that the government must ensure that the marginalised people and their financial needs are addressed on an urgent basis.
Going by the various reported instances across India over the past few days, it appears that a section of the ‘educated class’ and the ‘elite’ seem to be blatantly flouting basic norms to be followed relating to social distancing and self-quarantine. This irresponsible attitude of going about business as usual will undoubtedly have a multiplier effect, he adds.
Hence, Dr. Ram says that the lockdown will definitely play a key role in helping put an end to the community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The upcoming few weeks are extremely crucial. Social distancing must be taken seriously, he signs off.