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A policeman keeps watch from atop a building in Mumbai amid the lockdown. (Photo: AP)
A policeman keeps watch from atop a building in Mumbai amid the lockdown. (Photo: AP)

Why should India extend the nationwide lockdown

  • The WHO had last month called lockdown measures as creation of a second window of opportunity to contain the virus
  • Police personnel who are maintaining lockdowns across the country have come in support of the lockdown extension

NEW DELHI : Even as the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the wake of covid-19 pandemic has pushed the country into a socioeconomic dilemma, multisectoral authorities across states are against lifting the restrictions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after holding a discussion with the state chief ministers on Saturday about a plan for the exit from the lockdown, said that there seems to be a consensus amongst the states on its extension by another two weeks.

The World Health Organization had last month called lockdown measures as creation of a “second window of opportunity" to contain the virus and cautioned that early lifting of restriction may cause its resurgence. “We call on all countries who have introduced so-called “lockdown" measures to use this time to attack the virus," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

“These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn’t resurge. The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence," the WHO had warned.

The WHO recommended using this “opportunity" to train and deploy healthcare and public health workforce, implement a system to find every suspected case at community level, ramp up the production, capacity and availability of testing, identify, adapt and equip facilities the countries will use to treat and isolate patients.

As India continued to be in a lockdown, the government created 586 dedicated covid-19 facilities (Centre and States) with 1,04, 613 isolation beds and 11, 836 ICU beds to tackle the evolving health crisis, further continuation of shutdown, may help in tracing more potential cases whilst saving others from getting infection.

Testimony to this idea is a statistical analysis of the virus spread by Union Health Ministry that claims to curb the growing covid-19 cases in India. “If India had not implemented either containment or nationwide lockdown, the cases growth would have been by 41% and we would have recorded 8.2 lakh covid-19 cases by April 15," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry. “If there were only containment measures but no lockdown – India would have recorded 1.2 lakh cases by Apr 15. Since we have acted there are 7,447 cases on April 11," Agarwal added.

Bhilwara in Rajasthan that has recently emerged out as a model of covid-19 containment has also attributed lockdown as the reason of its success in curtailing virus burden.

Police personnel who are maintaining lockdowns across the country have come in support of the lockdown extension. For instance, Etawah district in Uttar Pradesh hasn’t reported a single covid-19 case. Akash Tomar, Senior superintendent of Police (SSP), believes that the lockdown has paid results and its extension will further help in evading coronavirus cases in his area. “I think movement public contact has reduced by at least 90% due to lockdown has bought us enough time to prepare in terms of protocols, manpower and resources," said Tomar.

"Having this lockdown will help control the spiking rate and make it more manageable for states to minimise the pandemic," said Ashwajit Singh, Managing Director, IPE Global, an International development consulting firm for sustainable growth, citing Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus that went through 77 days of lockdown of 1.1 crore people and was able to totally control the virus.

“Similar measures were implemented in 1918 for the Spanish Flu, with evidence of success when they are implemented early enough and long enough. India, today stands better vis-a-vis many developed countries because of its proactive measures and early lockdown," said Singh adding the next few weeks are critical to flatten the corona curve and the extended lockdown may help.

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