Friday, May 1, 2020

Your life or your money? Lockdown 3.0 for now!

May 2, 2020, 10:36 AM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

With only a couple of days to go before the completion of the National Lockdown 2.0, many distinguished personalities- economists, politicians, social workers, professionals, celebrities, and even common men have expressed their opinion on whether lockdown should be continued or lifted. While the ministry of Home Affairs’ latest updates have extended the lockdown to another 14 days, it is worth remembering, for naysayers, the Spanish flu of 1918. It has been said that the jubilation over the lifting of lockdown during that pandemic had resulted in the onset of another stronger wave of the pandemic which killed millions.

Concerns on the plight of daily wage labourers and migrant workers have been elaborated by many. Noted economist and policy expert Dr. Raghuram Ranjan too is a staunch supporter of the lockdown to be lifted. “It in fact means that the government has not been successful in curbing the virus. So, it could diminish its credibility. We should not target 100 per cent success and wait for zero new cases before fully opening the economy,” said the former RBI Governor. The damage the present lockdown has caused will take years to recover, observed many economists. According to them, another phase of lockdown could see deaths from hunger and poverty and not just virus infection. It is not surprising as India has many of its citizens literally living hand to mouth. Humanitarian works though are conducted on war footing scale and the Government has done its best to feed the POPs.

The real question is have we improved on our situations? The past 10 days have seen the number of people affected increased by 1000 plus every day. Our test kits which are procured from china and sent to states are recalled on account of being “faulty”. For people who have complaints about lockdown hardships, it is too well known beforehand that Lockdown will have its unprecedented consequences- it is just that we do not have a better alternative. Some inconvenience that is bound to happen cannot be comparable to the possible catastrophic loss of human lives in the event of the lockdown being not enforced. With the possibility of lockdowns being lifted, we were on the verge of an inevitable state of accepting our fate entirely dependent on the conduct of Corona Virus. The idea of ‘herd immunity’ as prescribed by many, have been dismissed as ‘utter nonsense’ by renowned epidemiologist Dr. Gideon M K who is working with chronic disease in Sydney. “All of this is simply nonsense. Herd immunity without a vaccine is by definition not a preventative measure,” the doctor wrote in his health blog.

While some states have extended the lockdown beyond May 3rd, the PM has held meetings with the CMs of several states and the Home ministry’s extension of the lockdown is expected to be the outcome of that consultation. Although it was the economic factor and the humanitarian concerns for migrant workers, that hold a huge weight for the decision to relax lockdown, it is doubtful if the migrant workers will instantly find jobs, had lockdown been lifted, since most of them will be heading home as majority of the cities they have worked are categorized under Red zones.

As for those in the Green zones, it is understandable that there will be calls for lockdown norms to be relaxed. But the safest bet to stay evergreen would be to enforce lockdown at least for another 14 to 20 days so that any spread from asymptomatic carriers are ruled out, post the Home ministry’s advisory for states to allow inter-state movement of stranded people. Relaxation of National lockdown would be suicidal until unless there is a reliable vaccine developed, which could be in September end at the earliest. While it is true that we cannot wait an eternity for the vaccine and lockdown cannot continue forever, in as much as we suffer during the lockdown, it is always better to risk our money (economy) than our life. While it will take 5 to 10 years to revive the economy, it will be impossible to revive our life, if lost. We were 20 to 30 crucial days late in declaring lockdowns. The grave mistake of deciding to lift the lockdown 20 to 30 days earlier has been averted as of now. Only time will tell, if lockdown 3.0 will suffice it as it will now take more than staying Home to be safe. Curative measures like Test and Treatment have to witness a manifold increase in terms of quality and quantity to avoid another lockdown 4.0


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