Shradha Pandey - inSIG2019, Y4IG Member, YIGF India 2020 Volunteer
The total number of confirmed cases in India as of 16th May 2020 when I wrote this piece are 85,940 with 30,153 recoveries and 2,752 deaths. The numbers are staggering in a country with a total population of over 1350 million, but the current situation instills hope. The infection rate in India is 1.7, significantly lower than several economies round the world. The primary factors for this low rate of infection are numerous; such as the countrywide lockdown, the low share of elderly population, the possibility of lack of adequate testing or the discrepancies in the initial airport screening. The country does have certain features that have protected it from the deadliest impact for its population size, but that does not imply that India will escape the situation unscathed.
Lockdown in three phases: Does India need a fourth phase?
The first positive case in India was reported on January 30th and immediate counter measures to deal with the outbreak were adopted. The lockdown was implemented in three consecutive phases. The first phase was announced from 24th March for a period of 21 days, thereafter the complete countrywide lockdown was extended from 15th April after the first phase for 19 more days. The third phase was enforced after due considerations from 4th May till 17th i.e. tomorrow. India imposed heavy restrictions on travel both domestic and international and suspended visas. The country also implemented stringent measures on all commercial businesses except essential services such as groceries and pharmacies.
The situation was slightly relaxed in the second and the third phase of lockdown where the country reopened, banks, agricultural businesses, trucks, trains, planes carrying cargo and even started the public works programme under strict social distancing measures. However, these relaxations are being implemented in a phased manner with the country declaring ‘containment zones’ with both the geographic quarantine and cluster containment strategy. India has divided the country into three zones,
- Red zone (Hotspots) – districts with high doubling rate and high number of active cases.
- Orange zone (Non-hotspots) – districts with fewer cases.
- Green zone – districts without confirmed cases or without new cases in the last 21 days.
The containment measures are in full force with slight relaxation and phased reopening of the economy to be expected in the green zones post the completion of the third phase of the lockdown.
Arogya Setu: A bridge to better health?
The Arogya Setu app is developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19. Several questions regarding the privacy of users and location tracking were raised by the citizenry, the government swiftly responded by alleviating the fears and informing that the app did not collect private information and the data would be immediately deleted post the Covid 19 crisis. Till date the app has crossed over 90 million downloads and is regularly updated to prevent the spread of the virus via contact tracing.
Economy: Migrant workers are the worst hit!
The economic impact of the Covid 19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown has been enormous with the growth of the country hitting a three-decade low. Within a month of the implementation of the lockdown, the unemployment rate rose from 6.7% to 24.2% as of 15th May 2020. The informal unorganized sectors and the daily wage earners had to bear the major impact of the stagnant economy. Their source of livelihood was taken away when the factories and other workplaces shut down. The migrant workers come to the cities in search of daily work and engage in precarious jobs; the lockdown has come as a death blow, with the horrific option of either starving to death or risking infection while travelling on foot to their home states. The government is trying to contain the situation by permitting special trains for the stranded migrant workers, launching online portals for stranded migrant workers, setting up relief camps and screening them whilst organizing means of transport by respective states. The situation with regard to the migrant workers is not under control, but constant efforts are being made to handle the situation effectively.
What’s next for India
India’s role in managing the spread of coronavirus reminds us of the frailty of the working population of the country. The gradual lifting of lockdown in Green Zones is the immediate next step in a series of actions to be taken by the government. The country also announced a commendable economic stimulus package of ₹20 lakh crore for reforms in labor and agriculture, two of the biggest resources of India. Now all that remains is the effective implementation of these reforms to contain the situation in India. We hope to survive and come out stronger from the interplay of chaos and volatility.