As India enters the final week of the world’s biggest lockdown that originally began on March 25 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the picture doesn’t seem to be all that great. The country recorded its biggest single-day spike in new infections on May 10 with 4,213 new COVID-19 cases.
What’s alarming is that the curve seems to be taking an upward trajectory in May. This has raised concerns about the success of the lockdown as millions of Indians are out of a job, and the economy has come to a grinding halt.
While India did well initially to keep the novel coronavirus curve relatively flat, May is turning out to be a challenging month. The total number of infections stood at less than 35,000 on April 30. That number is close to doubling as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country stands close to 68,000 as of this writing on May 11.
Given the pace at which coronavirus cases in India are growing, the country may see the 70,000-mark on May 11. So, the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in India is now less than 11 days. This isn’t good news as the doubling rate on May 2 stood at 15 days. What’s worse is that despite the lockdown, India’s coronavirus peak still seems one to two months away.
The Indian government has run into quite a few operational challenges during the lockdown, and that seems to have worked against it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Indian citizens just four hours to prepare for the lockdown. This left millions of migrant workers stranded away from home, without ample food and money.
As it turns out, migrant workers are still making their way across the country in crowded means of transport – and sometimes walking hundreds of kilometers on foot – to reach their villages.
Such crowds have sent social distancing measures advocated by the government for a toss and increased the risk of transmission.
On the other hand, the long lockdown seems to be creating desperation among the citizens as economic losses mount. Any additional economic stimulus from the government hasn’t been forthcoming so far after a $23 billion package that was announced for the poor nearly a month and a half ago. Twitter reactions of people calling for the lockdown to be opened are doing the rounds.
PM Modi is holding discussions to open up the Indian economy with state chiefs. The country is looking at a staggered exit from the lockdown by gradually removing curbs. Certain restrictions were lifted toward the end of April. But the spike in coronavirus cases since then may make the government more cautious as they wouldn’t want to lose the apparent gains that the lockdown has brought.
The problem is that the government will now need to balance the economic cost of the lockdown with the human cost. With millions of Indians out of a job, unemployment soaring, and the economy in dire straits, the government is walking a tight rope as coronavirus cases aren’t showing signs of a slowdown.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.