A group of founders and investors of more than 50 startups in India have urged the government to order lockdown of major cities and impose Section 144 to ban assembly of people for two weeks starting 20 March.
The group, led by Vivekananda Hallekere and Anil G, the founders of two-wheeler rental startup Bounce, also includes Unacademy co-founder Gaurav Munjal, Urban Company co-founders Abhiraj Singh Bhal, Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra, Red Bus founder Phanindra Sama, Cred founder Kunal Shah and Pranav Goel, co-founder of Porter.
Prashanth Prakash of Accel Partners India; Avnish Bajaj, Vikram Vaidyanathan and Tarun Davda of Matrix Partners, and Chirag Gandhi of Kalaari Capital also endorsed the statement.
The statement pointed out that countries that “acted early and strongly" such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan were able to “flatten the curve" and bring down cases compared to those that waited and watched such as Iran, Italy, France and the US.
It said that data from the 1918 flu pandemic strongly suggests early strong action, while learnings from Wuhan suggest that actual undiagnosed cases are typically 5-20x of the diagnosed cases. India therefore likely has between 600-2,500 cases, it said.
Providing relevant statistics, the founders said that while containment efforts such as travel restrictions and testing should continue in India, imposing a lockdown and Section 144 now as opposed to a month later might eventually save nearly 10,000 lives.
The founders also said that the government should also prepare for a second lock-down later.
The statement also focussed on the economic and social costs of the lockdown, and recommended steps to ensure citizens are prepared well.
These steps include ensuring citizens are well primed in days prior to Section 144 to avoid panic, leveraging social media, radio, television and celebrities, announcements in public transport, maintaining supply chain for essentials, setting up a government war room headed by the chief minister in each state, a crisis management group at the district level and to scale up testing infrastructure and rapid testing capacity.