- An Indian government official says that there are no plans to extend the 21-day lockdown.
- The potential spike in coronavirus cases may force the government to change that.
- India needs better planning to extend its lockdown as millions are left stranded.
India went into an unprecedented three-week lockdown last week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the step was necessary to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in a country of 1.3 billion people.
While many anticipated that the lockdown could last well beyond the initial 21-day period, a top Indian government official has squashed those rumors.
Top official says no plans to extend coronavirus lockdown in India
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba told Asian News International (ANI) – a Reuters partner – today that the Indian government doesn’t plan to extend the lockdown beyond the three-week period announced by prime minister Modi.
According to a tweet by the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau:
There are rumours & media reports, claiming that the Government will extend the #Lockdown21 when it expires. The Cabinet Secretary has denied these reports, and stated that they are baseless.
The claims from the cabinet secretary may have arrived too early as India is yet to complete the first week of the lockdown to combat the spread of the COVID-19 disease. They may have been ill-timed as well as novel coronavirus cases in India have been consistently clocking a three-digit growth over the past three days.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India stands at around 1,200 as of this writing on March 30. Twenty-nine people have died
The number of cases has more than doubled in less than just a week, stroking speculation that India may extend the lockdown period to contain the spread. What’s more, a mathematical model devised by Cambridge University suggests a 49-day lockdown, at minimum, is necessary to control the COVID-19 outbreak.
An extension may be needed after all
The model prepared by Cambridge scholars Rajesh Singh and R. Adhikari indicates that novel coronavirus cases in India could spike sharply if the lockdown is not extended beyond the three-week period.
Instead, they suggest a three-step lockdown to control the spread of the disease with an alternate option of a seven-week lockdown – in total.
But the problem is that India may not be prepared for a continuous seven-week lockdown as reports of gaps in essential supplies and migration of laborers from one state to another suggests.
The lockdown has forced businesses to shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers in the lurch. Bereft of livelihood, these laborers have started migrating on foot to their villages from megacities such as New Delhi and Mumbai. The Indian government has made life difficult for these laborers by ordering states to seal their borders to contain the migration.
Instances of police brutality have also surfaced. Ill-informed police personnel have been disrupting the flow of essential commodities and have also been known to behave inhumanely with migrants.
Amid all this, extending the lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak would require intricate planning from the government to avoid a re-run of the problems the people are currently facing.
Indian citizens had four hours to prepare for the 21-day lockdown. While that may have been necessary to control the spread, it compounded the problem as people went into panic buying and millions of poor were left to fend for themselves. That’s why the government needs to do better the next time it thinks of locking down a nation of more than a billion people.