As the process of lifting lockdown (known as Unlock 1.0) started in India, one of the countries which had the most stringent lockdown, I as an informed citizen would love to look back on the whole situation. And question its wisdom. When the government first instated lockdown in March 2020, the number of reported COVID patients in India was roughly 500. Now, when the unlock is being practiced the number of cases has crossed 5 lakh. What is the government’s reasoning here that I am missing?
The most ardent supporters of lockdown claim that if it was not applied in March the cases could have reached 50 lakh by now. While the argument sounds very logical but practically there is no available data to back this claim. On the contrary, some of the experts fear that by December 2020, 70% of the population could be infected as the peaking has only just begun. The only silver lining in this scenario is that 90% of the population won’t even know that they have the infection.
The second argument that is bandied around is that government needed time to prepare itself better with more beds in hospitals, more ventilators and more protective equipment for the frontline workers. The latter two items had to be imported as we don’t make them. If we look at two of India’s most prominent cities that are considered better placed in terms of health care, Delhi and Mumbai, this argument sounds hollow. Even now, after all the ‘preparation’ there are no beds available in hospitals. The relatives are running from pillar to post in desperation and patients are dying without getting any proper help.
On top of everything, this lockdown has wreaked havoc on the economy. There is a very strong likelihood that GDP will go into minus growth. Migrant labourers faced the brunt of this economic difficulty but luckily in their case, their struggles were reported. Unfortunately, the middle class isn’t faring and better. More than 3 lakh people have lost their jobs. I work as a freelancer and freelancers are no better than migrant labourers. I have sitting at home for three months with no project in hand and at times it seems like there is no hope on the horizon either.
The question I keep coming back to is, what should the government have really done?
Yes it was a very difficult decision but the government could have waited a little longer. We know for certain now that there are countries that have faced this pandemic better without the lockdown or with partial lockdown. Now they talk about herd immunity and other stuff but the damage has been already done. In a country like India where social distancing is a luxury of the majority of population, this was bound to fail. And it has failed spectacularly.
An Urdu couplet captures this beautifully Junoon ka nam khirad diya khirad ka junoon Lunacy starts being called sense, and sense, lunacy Jo chahe apka husne karishma saaz kare Whatever you wish, the beauty of your charisma creates