As the world is facing worst public health crisis of modern history due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many countries like Italy, the United Kingdom have announced complete lockdown. Italy has to call the armed forces to enforce the lockdown, as the libertarian people of the country were not ready to follow the government’s advisory.
Majority of the countries around the world have come to screeching halt, as ‘social distancing’ seems only solution to stop the multiplication of the crisis. Coronavirus has done what world war and civil war could not do to many countries- A Complete Shutdown with only ‘essential’ on the public spaces.
In India, the government has responded aptly so far. PM’s call for ‘Janata curfew’ has turned out to be a massive success and prepared the country for what could lie ahead, and to stop the multiplication of the disease. The government had not announced complete lockdown- perhaps to prevent panic reaction from people- but from public transport to passenger trains, all the avenues of movement are being closed one by one.
First the government barred the movement of International flights to India to prevent ‘import’ of the new cases, and now all passenger trains have been cancelled till the end of the month. Yesterday it was reported that 12 people who travelled in Indian Railways have been found positive with COVID-19, and therefore, the cancellation of passenger trains seemed inevitable.
If not stopped, the Indian railways could have become the biggest source of community spread of the diseases, given the fact more than 2 crore people travel on the railways at any given time on normal days. The halt of railways was also required to spread of the disease in the hinterland.
In a panic reaction against lockdown, people on the bottom of the income pyramid are returning back to villages, and these people are suspected to become the biggest carriers of the disease. In Italy and China, fears of imminent lockdown led to large-scale migration among people worsening the spread of the disease, and leading to a disastrous epidemic.
The daily wage workers, students who moved cities for education and those prepare for various exams in cities, the people who could afford to stay in a city in the case of prolonged slowdown due to low income and savings, are running to villages. Given the fact United States medical department has already revealed that young people are more likely to be carriers of the virus although they are at low risk, the people running to villages could worsen the situation in hinterlands.
Most of the students who come to cities for education are in the early 20s, and the majority of the daily wage workers are also in 30s or 40s, and these people, if they return to villages, could put the entire village population at risk, especially the older ones.
Our villages of very poor public and private healthcare facility, and the doctors and paramedical staff in most of villages and small towns are not trained to deal with such a situation. Therefore, restricting the movement of young people to villages is essential in the fight against the virus.
The cancellation of all passenger trains till March 31st in the first step in the direction, the government needs to shut down the state transport services as well as the movement private vehicles, especially those intended for transportation purpose. Bihar and Delhi to Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu, many states have already suspended the state transport facilities; other states should follow the suit. These states are also going into prolonged lockdown, with non-essential businesses closed.
Rajasthan has announced complete lockdown while Tamil Nadu has shut down the borders with Kerala, as the Communist-ruled states has reported the second-highest number of cases.
As of now, complete shutdown of Maharashtra, the western state which has the highest number of reported cases, is essential. Given the fact that Maharashtra’s cities host highest numbers of migrant workers-especially from poorer states with almost non-existent public healthcare like UP and Bihar- and therefore, the alliance government should announce complete lockdown. So far, Maharashtra government has been very slow in the response, despite having the highest number of cases.
Mumbai local, the lifeline of the city, have been operational despite the fact that it could become the biggest source of community transmission. The cases of stage III, that is community transmission, are already being reported in Maharashtra, but the suspension of local train services was announced today.
Many politicians including former finance minister P Chidambaram and former commerce minister Subramanian Swamy are already demanding a complete shutdown-that means curfew- for the next few days.
My friend on COVID Solution 1) curfew by public / govt for 7 days immediately so that all the patients can be identified as within 7 days they will have symptoms of Virus and then they can be treated 2) complete quarantine for inbound travellers from abroad, for 7 days.
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) March 22, 2020
“My friend on COVID Solution 1) curfew by public/govt for 7 days immediately so that all the patients can be identified as within 7 days they will have symptoms of Virus and then they can be treated 2) complete quarantine for inbound travellers from abroad, for 7 days,” tweeted Dr Swamy.
The union government could announce nationwide curfew, but it would more appropriate that the state governments announce curfew by analyzing the situation objectively. But all the states should at least stop the internal movement, especially from the high case density states like Maharashtra or Kerala.
As of now, ‘social distancing’ is most effective solution to ‘flatten the curve’, as suggested by the government as well as the health official. In the fight against Corona, India is blessed by a strong, effective government at the centre, which is taking appropriate steps to flatten the curve. These are the times when a country needs a leader, and India is blessed with PM Modi; because what former Manmohan Singh did as Prime Minister- allocation of resources effectively- could be done by any public policy official, but to change the social behaviour of the people with a 30 minutes speech could be done by only few people, and as evident with positive response to Janata curfew, PM Modi did exactly that.