Indian’s government has finally woken up to the alarming pace with which the COVID-19 outbreak is gripping the country.
Novel coronavirus cases in India have spiked as fears of community transmission are gaining ground, and that’s bad news for a country with such a massive population.
Though India started closing its borders couple of weeks ago, not many concrete steps were taken by the government to contain the virus’ spread.
The concept of social distancing wasn’t being practiced to break the chain of the coronavirus spread and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to step in to ensure people started following the recommendations.
On Sunday, Indians observed a voluntary lockdown that began at 7 am and ended at 9 pm. The lockdown was largely successful as deserted streets across the country painted a bright picture of Indians’ resolve to fight against COVID-19.
PM Modi had even advised citizens to gather in their balconies at 5 pm in the evening to applaud those on the frontline who have been working through the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s where things started going haywire. People started gathering on the streets and even took out processions at the said time, ignoring the PM’s advice.
This behavior seems to have forced Indian authorities’ hands. They have finally started enforcing lockdowns across the country for various lengths.
The country’s capital of New Delhi has gone into a complete lockdown beginning Monday and will remain in that state until Mar. 31.
The city has suspended public transport services along with incoming international flights. Shops, private offices, and religious places will remain shut during this time.
What’s more, Delhi has also closed its borders to neighboring states and will only allow transportation of essential goods.
Similar restrictions have been enforced elsewhere in India. Interstate buses and trains remain cancelled until Mar. 31.
In all, over 75 districts across the country with novel coronavirus cases have been shut down, while state governments are also taking steps to curb the spread as well.
The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, for instance, has put 35 districts in lockdown as six people have tested positive for COVID-19 in two districts.
These measures come at a critical time when the novel coronavirus outbreak is on the verge of moving into the critical third stage where things are expected to get worse.
India has been testing too few of its citizens for the novel coronavirus. This has raised concerns that the actual number of infected patients could be more than the official count. But now it seems that the government has finally woken up to this shortcoming.
The government has now put in place 114 laboratories to test for novel coronavirus as compared to the earlier count of 52 labs. The government has managed to do this by authorizing private labs and has also put in place price caps so that more people can access them. T
he Indian Council of Medical Research claims that these labs can conduct 60,000 to 70,000 tests a week. The testing capacity could go up as another 60 private labs are currently in the process of approval.
So a combination of lockdowns and a potential increase in coronavirus testing in the coming days can give us a better idea about the state of COVID-19 in India. But there is a feeling that the measures may have come late as the number of cases has spiked dramatically.
As of press time, India has 460 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Less than a week ago on Mar. 17, there were just 125 coronavirus cases.
As the chart above shows, the curve of infections has gained pace and it saw an alarming surge on Sunday. So, it remains to be seen if the latest steps undertaken by the Indian government are effective enough to flatten the curve, or if things are about to get worse before they improve.