In Centre’s Covid-19 lockdown exit plan, 1 principle and 2 crucial worries – india news
The Centre is leaning towards a calibrated exit from the Covid-19 national lockdown beginning May 3 that would strike a balance between ensuring the pandemic doesn’t flare-up and easing restrictions in order to revive the economy.
The government has, from this week, already relaxed restrictions in rural areas to let people harvest crops and work in a select group of industries with access controls and proper protocols.
“From May 3, the idea is to expand the list of permitted activities in a way that does not lead to a free-for-all,” a top government official told Hindustan Times. The basic principle is to adopt a step-by-step approach under constant monitoring as the Modi government knows that India is in for a long haul.
“There was a time when the global community including the WHO was worried about how India would be able to control the virus infections and death with experts and armchair strategists predicting a doomsday scenario. We showed the world by pre-empting the virus through strong procedures. We will be able to handle it in future also,”said a senior Union minister of the government.
The exit plan is still work in progress and will depend, for one, on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with chief ministers on April 27. In the end, it will be driven by the Centre‘s analysis of how the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen that causes Covid-19 is spreading within states, districts and the thousands of containmenment zones notified across the country closer to May 3.
Officials associated with the empowered committees mandated to track the disease and formulate the government’s response said their primary worry at the moment is the spread of the disease in the metro cities, particularly in its slum clusters due to high density of population and lack of social distancing.
2 big Covid-19 concerns
Nearly half of Mumbai’s 930 containment zones are in slum areas such as Mumbai’s Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum cluster.
Mumbai ‘s 4,200 cases make up for 18 per cent of the country’s Covid-19 count; 65 percent of Maharashtra’s total of 6,400.
In Delhi, officials said, the situation appeared to be largely under control except for some pockets where cases had been reported despite a hard lockdown.
There are other emerging hotspots such as Gujarat’s Surat and Ahmedabad, Telangana’s Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu’s Chennai as well that are being tracked closely. On Friday, the government announced that it would send central teams to these four cities to take a closer look at the problem.
But the big worry apart from Mumbai is West Bengal’s Kolkata, which, officials insist, was looking at the entire disease control exercise from a political prism. That Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has set up a committee which will decide if a death can be attributed to Covid-19 is being cited as an indicator of its approach.
A central team that was in Kolkata to hold discussions with state health officials have also reported non-cooperation from the state authorities, and holes in the claims made by the state. Bengal has reported all of 500 cases.
The state government insists that it hadn’t been reporting many cases because it was at the beginning of the Covid-19 curve and had detected its first case only on March 8. But it hasn’t been testing many people. According to data submitted by the state government, Bengal had only conducted 400 tests daily till four days ago which has been raised to 900 tests.
Government officials said the Centre’s decision on the lockdown would have to take these facts into account as well as the capacity for testing a larger number of people, particularly given that many people who were asymptomatic had tested positive for the virus.
The lockdown exit plan will also take into account the capacity to carry out tests.
India’s testing relies at the moment on the RT-PCR process, the most definitive diagnostic test that involves matching the molecular signatures established with the virus.
For large-scale testing, particularly as a surveillance tool, the government prefers the antibody rapid tests that give results in minutes, even if it has many imperfections. The government has contracted with Chinese firms to acquire more of these test kits – 6.5 lakh kits had been bought recently – and has decided to buy these kits from South Korean manufacturers too.
Exiting Lockdown is complicated
Exiting the lockdown has been a tricky part of dealing with Covid-19 for governments across the world.
US President Donald Trump, who has been consistently nudging states to reopen as soon as possible, appeared to tweak his stand this week when he disagreed with Georgia’s decision to open movie theatres, nail salons and tattoo parlours.
The World Health Organisation has said countries should exit the lockdown in phases. But that isn’t rocket science. Young IAS officers, just a few years in service, had made the same point in a national survey conducted by the government last month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had underscored the same point in his interaction with chief ministers early this month.