Empire Diaries Desk
May 2, 2020, New Delhi: India’s lockdown has now been extended by 14 more days, taking the total duration of the unprecedented stay-at-home regime to 54 days.
After May 3, many non-essential services will reopen. Lots of factories will resume operations, many more neighbourhood shops will open up.
But those relaxations will be allowed only in the zones marked green and orange. Red zones will observe strict shutdowns, at least until May 17.
By the time it’s May 17, we will know whether there will be a further extension of the lockdown or whether we will see a widespread relaxation of curbs.
Public transport, shopping malls, movie theatres, and most non-essential offices will continue to remain largely closed.
The big question on everybody’s mind is: When will the #coronavirus #lockdown be lifted completely? Many are fearing, will it ever be lifted this year? Also, will it be safe for us if the lockdown is lifted completely after May 17?
While it’s good to be optimistic, it’s also necessary to be realistic.
India has so far officially reported a controlled spike in #COVID19 cases. The infection rate has not officially exploded as it has done in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, China, France, Iran, Germany, and in a few other nations.
But that “control in numbers” has largely been possible because India’s national testing rate is extremely, extremely low compared to other major countries hit by the #pandemic. It’s lower than that of even Pakistan, a country whose health sector is unlikely to be as sound as that of India.
India is currently testing 654 people for the #SarsCoV2 virus per 10 lakh people.
Let’s compare this with the testing rates of some badly affected nations:
US – 19,311 tested per 10 lakh people
Spain – 31,126 tested per 10 lakh people
Italy – 32,735 tested per 10 lakh people
UK – 13,286 tested per 10 lakh people
Germany – 30,400 tested per 10 lakh people
This comparison gives us a hint that perhaps we don’t know if the #epidemic has done much more damage to India than what we really know.
If we don’t test enough people, how will we ever know the extent of the damage?
Which brings us back to the main question: Should India’s lockdown be lifted completely?
Ideally, from the point of the Indian economy, which is gasping for breath, the lockdown must end. It has to. It is suffocating our financial present and jeopardising our economic future. No doubt about it. The have-nots, the subaltern are in unprecedented distress, a fact acknowledged by global bodies like the UN, UNICEF, and the ILO.
But let’s hypothetically assume that the lockdown ends on May 17 and India is thrown open for normal life. You never know, given the nature of this virus to mutate and spread at lightning speed, it might use the opportunity to transmit freely all over India and cause phenomenal damage.
Imagine an India where lockdowns at all levels are lifted, resulting in the coronavirus infecting one-third of the country’s population of 1.38 billion. Now assume that 2% of those infected succumb to the disease: that comes to a scary figure of 9.2 million or 92 lakh people dead!
We need to keep an eye on history.
102 years back, the 1918 flu pandemic, (wrongly known as the #SpanishFlu), came back to haunt the world in second and third waves because global lockdowns were repeatedly being relaxed. And the second wave, in particular, was deadlier than the first wave.
If COVID-19 is a similar virus, then isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? Isn’t it better to not rush the easing of restrictions and rather tackle it very carefully and judiciously?
Will freedom from this lockdown in the short run take away our larger freedom to live safe for the rest of our lives?
As of now, the answers to these uncomfortable questions are as invisible to us as the coronavirus is.