India decides to suspend visas due to the threat of the novel coronavirus that has been declared a pandemic by the WHO.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has finally declared COVID-19 as a pandemic as the death toll of the novel coronavirus outbreak went past the 4,000-mark. Declaring the disease as a pandemic was only a matter of time given the pace at which it has been affecting people across the world. Not surprisingly, governments are now being forced to take strong measures to protect their people from the outbreak.
After Italy went into lockdown and the U.S. decided to ban all travel from Europe (except the U.K.) for a month, the world’s second-most populous nation has got into the act now. India has suspended “all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, project visas” until April 15.
According to the latest instructions from India’s Bureau of Immigration, travelers (including Indian nationals) coming into India who visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain, and Germany on or after Feb. 15, 2020, will have to be under quarantine for 14 days.
The country will also spruce up medical screening at its land borders and is taking strict measures such as asking Indians in Italy to provide health certificates.
These steps are not surprising as the novel coronavirus outbreak seems to be gathering momentum in the country. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India has reached 68 now after 10 new cases in the western Indian state of Maharashtra came to light.
Though the number of novel coronavirus cases in India is much lower when compared to China, Europe, or the U.S., the alarming thing is the pace of growth. The number of cases has doubled in the space of just four days as there were reportedly 31 confirmed cases on March 7. That’s not surprising as we have seen that it doesn’t take much time for the cases to multiply.
So it can be said that India may have taken corrective steps in time to control the spread of the virus. It remains to be seen if any new cases pop up in the coming days; because if that happens, the government may be at fault as it was found slacking at the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.
India could have done much better to get an early control over the coronavirus outbreak, but the country’s leaders didn’t step up. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for instance, wrote in a tweet that he is abstaining from celebrating festivals to avoid mass gatherings and prevent the spread of the disease.
Other ministers also followed suit, but they could have done much better by educating people about how to keep themselves safe. Instead, the spread of fake news about the spread of coronavirus in India and how to tackle the same was rampant. People were busy resorting to useless home remedies – including yoga and drinking cow urine – instead of taking actual steps to keep themselves safe.
A more informative communication from PM Modi would have gone a long way in sending people down the right path to combat the spread given his wide social media reach. He needed to take a leaf out of his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on this front.
Given that the incubation period of the novel coronavirus strain may last anywhere between five days and 24 days, there may be a probability of more cases springing up. The good news is that the Indian government has set up 52 test sites and 57 labs across the country to test the disease and tackle the same. But with a population of over 1.3 billion people and a frail healthcare system that ranks lower than the likes of Bangladesh, only time can tell us if these will be enough.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.