As India braces for a lockdown, something which was expected, the need of the hour and a welcome move for several reasons (explained below).
Before going into the benefits of the lockdown, let’s first heap praises on the people who made this possible: of course the PM announced it and he has his thinktank to back him but all this wouldn’t have been possible without the auspices of a seminal paper published by the Imperial College London (this paper effectively changed US and UK strategy towards combating Covid19) where the researchers/authors thrashed out in no uncertain terms how the world needs to act to contain Covid 19 pandemic, the options being no action, mitigation and suppression strategies (lockdown).
The paper demonstrated admirably how suppression / lockdown win hands down as it helps to contain the virus by preventing new cases. Of course the economy goes southward, but more importantly lives are saved and that’s what is the need of the hour.
(Briefly touching down on why partial curfew-lockdowns/mitigation strategies wouldn’t have helped: it would have allowed the virus opportunities to multiply and mutate and become more resistant to drugs; with more infections would have come more serious cases and even deaths overwhelming our already stressed healthcare system.)
Now that lockdown is upon all resident Indians, let’s first list down it’s positives viz.,
1. Fewer total cases of Coronavirus
2. Immediate relief of the healthcare system and those running it
3. Fall in mortality rate
4. Reduction of collateral damage
5. Ability for infected, isolated and quarantined healthcare workers to get better and resume work
6. Setting up a tracing operation as in certain East Asian countries for identifying all the people that every sick person met and put them in quarantine helpful in providing intelligence regarding the social distancing measures used (testing and tracing single handedly brought South Korea under control without resort to too much social distancing methods).
7. More time to buy equipments for a future wave of the disease
8. Ramping up procurement of masks, PPE’s, ventilators, ECMO’s and other critical device.
All said and done, I feel the lockdown announcement was required while the nation would already have been under Section 144 of CrPC 1973 disallowing assembly of 4 or more persons together in one place. This is owing to the scenes of huge assembly and crowd spilling out on the streets from different parts of the country immediately after the PM’s address.
Few concerns still remain:
a) how daily wage earners shall survive this lockdown
b) how small businesses shall survive
And going forward would expect GOI to clarify on the above aspects as well.
1. Paper published by the Imperial College London
2. Paper published by Tomas Pueyo