COVID-19 crisis: Chorus for India lockdown gets louder


By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  A day after CII president Uday Kotak called for a national lockdown to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus, many corporate leaders came forward to support the idea saying it is all right to take an economic hit to save lives. However, health experts are divided over the effectiveness of such a move at this stage. Many CII members including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp, Mahindra & Mahindra, JCB and Kotak Mahindra Bank have already taken action on their own keeping the safety of employees in mind.

While services sector organisations have moved to the work from home model, manufacturing firms have halted production and advanced their maintenance schedules. “Saving lives is more important than producing steel. Production can suffer as long as the country is in need of any resource available with the company,” said Sajjan Jindal, managing director of JSW Group, which supplies liquid oxygen to hospitals. Another corporate leader, who did not wish to be named, said India’s healthcare system is stretched to its limits. “Suspending non-essential business activities and a complete lockdown for two weeks is the only way out,” he said. However, real estate tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani called for a balanced approach.

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“A complete economic lockdown will cast a dark shadow on economy and lead to more fatalities due to increased unemployment,” he said. Rohit Poddar, MD, Poddar Housing and Development Ltd the government should strike a balance between a full lockdown and allowing business operations. Ashish Mishra, CEO of advisory firm, Unnault, said the Centre should take steps and push people to stay at home. America’s top public health expert and White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, too, recently said India must impose a nationwide lockdown for a few weeks.

However, experts in India are not convinced of the need for lockdown when the infection is already rampant. Dr Oommen John of the George Institute for Global Health India pointed out that it will be difficult to ensure that people stay within their homes in densely populated urban contexts. “At the current stage of the pandemic, unrestricted access to diagnostic tests is critical,” he said. A senior virologist based in Delhi said lockdown is most effective when enforced just when the infections begin to surge.

“Scientifically speaking, I am not sure how much can be achieved by a widespread national lockdown considering the unique challenges we have in our country, especially in high density population areas such as slums where people share toilets and water taps.” Having faced widespread criticism last year for imposing a nationwide lockdown without warning, the Centre this time is not in favour of shutting down the economy. On April 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told states to manage the Covid situation without imposing a lockdown.

Maha cases coming down

India’s worst Covid-hit state Maharashtra reported 51,880 cases on Tuesday. The state has been able to bring down fresh cases to a manageable range after it imposed a statewide lockdown last month

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