NEW DELHI :
Indian industry has urged the government to implement an exit strategy from the nationwide lockdown and move toward normalizing economic activity while simultaneously taking measures to contain the spread of covid-19.
In a document submitted to the government by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and reviewed by Mint, the body said the course of the disease is so unpredictable that policy will “always be evolutionary" and will need to be reviewed daily.
While coronavirus hotspots should be sealed with restrictions on movement, the industry body said, a graded approach ought to be taken to restart industry based on four categories—where there are no covid-19 cases and there is no migration of workers; where there have been no cases but there has been migration of workers; where no new infections are being reported; where new infections are being reported.
In the first category, areas should be cordoned off and all industrial units allowed to operate with safety norms such as social distancing. In the second, work can resume on a similar scale by plying buses and trains to address migration of workers with the precaution of testing.
In the third category, areas with existing infection cases should be cordoned off and the lockdown extended by a week. Only essential industries and export sectors should be allowed to resume with adequate precautions.
In the last category, the lockdown should be extended and measures such as rapid testing, isolation of those testing positive and quarantine of those nearby for at least two weeks should be practised, according to the document.
“The exit from the nationwide lockdown could be done by permitting healthy persons in the age group 22 to 39 to resume work.... This group of over 150 million people could put the wheels of economic activity into motion," according to Ficci.
It said these measures should be combined with precautions such as keeping the elderly and children below five as well as those with pre-existing health conditions isolated at home for the next four weeks. Districts and cities should be classed as high, medium or low risk based on data, surveillance and assessment.
While practising medical guidelines for safety is not going to be a big challenge for the organized sector, it would be a challenge for the unorganized sector.
Deepak Sood, secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (Assocham), said the country had to start planning a post-covid-19 scenario. Despite the economic pain caused by outbreak, he said Indian industry also had a huge opportunity as globally industries would like to de-risk their industrial value chain away from China. “Therefore, it’s a big opportunity for India," he said. Vikram Kirloskar, president of Confederation of Indian Industry, said that the timing of resumption of economic activity should be based on an assessment by government together with medical professionals.