Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed Indian citizens Thursday but the measures announced may not be enough to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
India’s poor coronavirus testing rates are already a cause for concern, and the country was looking forward to Prime Minister Modi’s address on Thursday hoping for some decisive measures.
But the points raised by Modi in his speech were more about raising general awareness about how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Modi pointed out that Indians at large seem to be carrying the false belief that COVID-19 will not affect them. There have been several instances where callousness on the part of citizens has increased the chances of spread.
Not surprisingly, the number of novel coronavirus cases in India has started spiking of late. As of Thursday, there are 184 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. The number has more than doubled over the past week as there were 76 confirmed cases Mar. 12.
A closer look at the following chart gives us a clear idea of how novel coronavirus cases in India have shot up of late.
Alarmed by the gravity of the situation, PM Modi advised Indians to practice social distancing. He also advised people to avoid going to hospitals for non-essential treatment and delay any non-critical surgeries so that the healthcare system isn’t stretched to its limits.
To combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Modi also announced that a 14-hour curfew will be imposed on Sunday from 7 am until 9 pm. But in the end, the prime minister failed to announce any decisive measures that may have gone a long way in keeping the disease under check.
India has been carrying out only 90 tests a day even though the country has the capacity to test 8,000 a day.
Reports suggest that only 11,500 people have been tested COVID-19 in India. That’s really low for the second-most populous county in the world housing nearly 18% of the global population.
The fears of community transmission in India have been growing. Dr. Gagandeep Kang, the director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, said:
Given the pattern of disease in other places, and given our low level of testing, then I do think that community transmission is happening.
The only way to find the true extent of the coronavirus spread in India is through widespread testing. One testing kit costs the government around 5,000 rupees (roughly $67). The high cost and shortage of kits are turning out to be a headwind.
Modi’s address to the nation didn’t shed any light on if and how India plans to expand coronavirus testing. At the same time, reports indicate there’s a lack of sanitation at isolation wards and hospitals, which has led patients to flee.
The Indian government also didn’t announce any fiscal stimulus packages to cope with the economic blow back of COVID-19.
India needed decisive measures from its leader in these trying times, and a lack of them could lead to serious consequences.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.
Last modified: March 19, 2020 11:41 PM UTC