On 24 March 2020 the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a television address announced a 21 day nation wide coronavirus lockdown. The stay home enforcement began at midnight on the same day. Police were deployed on the streets and barricades placed at all district and state borders. PM later revealed that the decision was not an easy one, but taken to break the chain of transmission of this highly contagious virus.
A time line of COVID-19 in India
First case was reported in Kerala on 30 Jan 2020 of a university student who came back from Wuhan. Throughout February month students and workers kept coming back to India from China and other countries. Though all passengers were screened at the airport, there were no cases reported in February. Beginning of March saw an Italian tourist group with 14 infected members visiting Jaipur and parts of Delhi. People with travel history started to test positive. India began realizing the serious nature of this virus early on. Contact details of each traveller were recorded by the authorities at the various airports. PM Modi cancelled his Holi program by sending out a tweet as early as 4th March. He stressed upon the risk of mass gathering and encouraged citizen to avoid it. Many govt organizations, societies, clubs and general public largely cancelled their programs. As number of cases kept increasing, the govt decided to take some hard decisions based on some facts about COVID-19.
- Highly contagious nature of the virus SARS-CoV-2 which spreads by touch. An infected person touches any surface like a door knob or lift button and leaves the virus on the surface for anything between a few hours to a couple of days. Other people who touch the same surface get the virus on their hands and once they touch their nose it enters their body through the nasal passage.
- An infected person can never show any symptoms like cough or high temperature but yet spread the virus around. The virus can stay inside the body of a person for 5 days after which it shows symptoms like cough or fever. Proper monitoring and treatment with fluids, after which the person can get cured without any medical treatment as body fights off the infection. This is how we see number of positive cases getting cured.
- Since the virus enters and affects the respiratory system, people who have a weak immune system or people of older age will develop pneumonia like symptoms. It will also cause serious respiratory problems followed by multiple organs failure.
- Community transmission is so serious that number of cases can rise rapidly within a few days.
- Kill rate is not too high but people require hospital admission and isolation. More serious patients require ICU and ventilator support. The spike in number of cases can easily overwhelm the medical resources of a country. Within a few days.
- There is only one way to beat the virus. To stop it from spreading. In a small population country it is easy to maintain social distancing. But India is the largest population density country in the world. A total lock down only will ensure people will stay home.
Announcement of Janata Curfew and 21 day nation wide lock down
On 19 March, PM asked all citizen for observe a Janata Curfew from 7am to 9pm on Sunday, 22 March. He asked the nation to be prepared for longer curfews like this. Though the police was out in several cities, enforcement was not that stringent. On 24 March PM announced 21 day lockdown to arrest the spread of the virus.
Legal provisions were incorporated to ensure complete compliance. Borders were sealed and police established check points at various place. First two days of the lockdown saw huge traffic jams on the borders of major cities. But police officers were on scene asking people to go back home. First priority of the govt was to ensure medical facilities of the country are in place and do not get affected by the lockdown. All fire, water, sanitation and emergency services were exempted. Petrol pumps, Banks, grocery stores, medical stores and such essential services shops were allowed to open.
Education institutes, schools, colleges, public transport, cabs, railways and all such non essential services were off road. Later local authorities started issues passes for people who were involved in essential services. Migrant labour camps have been created at district levels in each state. Food is being distributed to people by the govt as door step delivery at many places. There has been largely no disruption of major services anywhere in the country. It speaks volumes on the success of govt in enforcing the lock down successfully. Possible only because of a strong govt at the center and the leadership of the Prime Minister. Govt officials, doctors, medical staff and police machinery are in full force at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus.
Economic measures brought in by the central govt
Finance minister followed by RBI brought in series of measures to lessen the hardships people will face due to the lock down. Industry experts welcomed the measures taken by the government. Banks are following suit by announcing measures like three month break from paying EMIs. Govt is encouraging businesses to pay salaries and not layoff staff. Landlords are being asked not to force people to pay rent for the duration of the lock down period. As expected the stock markets did crash. Govt and all agencies are watching the economic pulse of the country very closely. But as the Prime Minister himself has brought out every human life is important and saving lives is the top priority now.