On 24th March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an unprecedented complete lockdown of India for 21 days to mitigate the spread of the worldwide pandemic, coronavirus. The world has seen more than 4 lakh cases in the first quarter of 2020, while India has seen over 600 cases.
Crux of the Matter
India saw its first Coronavirus case on 30th Jan 2020. The case count touched 100 after 44 days, after which the cases have doubled roughly every 4-5 days. As of 25th March the case count has crossed 600 with 11 deaths, 55 days after the first case.
This exponential rise in cases has caused a sense of panic among the people. So far the world has seen over 4 lakh cases and around 20,000 deaths. The virus which originated in China in November 2019, has travelled across the Silk Route, wreaking havoc in Italy, Spain, UK and the rest of Europe along with Iran. It has now spread in the USA and India, and has also affected China’s neighbours such as South Korea and Japan. In a massively globalised world, a virulently contagious disease is spreading like wild fire. Countries across the world including China, Italy and Spain, the 3 worst hit countries in terms of death toll, have resorted to locking down affected areas to contain the spread of the virus.
PM’s Appeal Although India hasn’t seen nearly as many cases as Europe, China or USA, given the country’s size and population density, Coronavirus poses a very potent threat to this country.
To stop the spread in its tracks, the Prime Minister has decided to implement a nation wide lock down of 3 weeks starting from 25th March. PM Modi made a special televised address on 24th March, and conveyed the seriousness of the situation in simple terms. He requested the citizens to stand together with discipline against this potential calamity.
Earlier on 22nd March Modi had announced a Junta Curfew, a self imposed curfew by the citizenry, which was observed by most of the country. Since then, different states had started announcing various lockdown measures till the end of March. Since the Junta Curfew day, streets across India have become empty with people staying locked up in their homes.
How will we lock down? In the upcoming weeks, all non-essential places of business will be closed. Police forces have been mandated to ensure that people stay at home. The government has promised the citizens that it will try to reduce the inconveniences of the general population while taking specific steps to combat the spread of coronavirus. PM Modi has already announced a Rs 15,000 crore package for strengthening the medical infrastructure of the country while the FM has announced a slew of relief measures to ease the fiscal burden on the working class.
To make the lockdown manageable, essential services such as groceries, medical stores, hospitals, police stations, fire stations, etc will stay open. Government will function with reduced capacity of work force. The government will not be cutting wages of its employees and has appealed to private business owners to follow suit. By and large, the prime minister’s appeal has been met with support by the populace as well as the industry.
Exponential Explosion At present, no vaccine or medicine has been confirmed as an antidote for the virus, although certain malaria and HIV medications have worked in treating some patients. Currently, the overall fatality rate across the world lies at 4% on the optimistic side. In cases that have been closed (i.e. the cases whose outcome has been determined), the worldwide fatality rate is currently 15%. Italy, the worst hit country so far, has a closed case fatality rate of 45% and overall fatality rate of 10%. (Here overall fatality rate is the total percentage of active and closed cases that resulted in deaths.)
The virus is transmittable across humans and is as contagious as flu. Every new patient increases the chance of spread. Also the symptoms stay dormant for 1-2 weeks, which means that an affected person may spread it without knowing about it. All of this increases the probability of transmission. The contagiousness of the disease makes it spread exponentially – assume 1 person transmits to 2 people, those 2 can transmit to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16 and so on and so forth. Given the asymptomatic first week, every carrier can transmit to many more people which would just increase the rate of spread.
This can be seen in the case data as well. It took 87 days to spread to the first 50,000 people. It doubled to 100,000 in another 23 days, then 200,000 in another 12 days and 400,000 in another 6 days. After the first 50,000 cases (which were mostly in China) once it spread out, the cases have doubled in half the time for every doubling event. This kind of exponential explosion can be curbed by pre-emptively restricting the interaction of humans – and hence, governments across the world are resorting to nation-wide lockdowns.
Exponential growth is a specific way that a quantity may increase over time. It occurs when the instantaneous rate of change of a quantity with respect to time is proportional to the quantity itself. In the long run, exponential growth of any kind will overtake linear growth of any kind. A virus (for example SARS, or smallpox) typically will spread exponentially at first, if no artificial immunization is available. Each infected person can infect multiple new people. More Info
On 13 March 2020, Indian PM Narendra Modi asked the leaders of the SAARC nations to assemble to figure out a joint strategy to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The group of leaders convened on March 15 and discussed measures including joint research, combined ministerial task forces and an emergency contribution fund. India has offered to seed the plan with $10 million.
Crux of the Matter
“Prepare, but Don’t Panic” The emergency SAARC video meeting called by PM Modi was attended by Presidents of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan, Prime Ministers of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and Health Minister of Pakistan.
Modi stressed the importance of SAARC nations to be prepared to fight the contagious virus given that the region houses one fifth of humanity. At the time of the meeting, the region had seen less than 200 cases whereas the rest of the world (led by China, Middle East and Europe) had seen more than 150,000 cases. Other SAARC leaders concurred with India’s approach and pledged to pool resources and task-forces to put up a united fight in terms of research, information sharing and diplomatic co-ordination. India also started a fund with a seed of $10 million to be used as a common resource by all SAARC countries to fight off the contagion.
Indian airport authorities have been conducting screening tests on passengers from January itself while slowly ramping up travel restrictions. Currently, India has banned pretty much all entries into the country from abroad. Earlier India had canceled in-bound visas from China and other affected areas.
The Indian government has also readily deployed it’s air force to evacuate its citizens from Coronavirus hit places. In February, India had evacuated not just Indian but Pakistani students as well who were stranded in Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak. Last week India evacuated its citizens from Iran, where the contagion has wreaked havoc since early 2020.
India’s humongous population always poses a logistical challenge to any scaling problem. India has been pre-emptively preparing its medical facilities to prepare for an outbreak since February. Major cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru have set up isolation wards in multiple hospitals and prepared labs for testing. Further basic precautionary guidelines are being communicated by the government on all channels including a caller tone before every telephone call.
British Media’s Petty Colonial Hangover Even as the entire globe was gripped in panic over the pandemic, certain British news agencies went out of the way to criticize India’s “under-preparedness” for dealing with the pandemic while simultaneously praising measures taken by China. To put this hypocrisy into perspective, UK which has 5% of India’s population has seen over 1,500 cases and 55 deaths, whereas India has so far seen around 129 cases and 3 deaths (as of 17 March 2020). China in comparison has seen over 80,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths due to coronavirus.
The British government has recently been universally panned for delaying precautionary bans on gatherings in a bid to try and develop “herd immunity” by allowing “controlled spread of the disease”.
Impact Update As of 17th March, India has recorded 129 confirmed cases with 3 deaths. All the deceased were elderly, aged 76, 68 and 64 respectively. This is in line with data that suggests a high fatality rate (over 10%) for people above 60 and the fact that the median age of deceased patients in Italy is 81.
In a bid to arrest the further spread of the disease, government authorities have put restrictions on gathering of people. Universities and schools have declared holidays. Many offices have followed suit, with a lot of companies opting to promote work-from-home among their employees. Indian researchers have also made headway in treating patients and researching the pathogen to develop vaccines.
SAARC – The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC was founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. Its secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. More Info
Quarantine is a restriction on the movement of people and goods which is intended to prevent the spread of disease or pests. It is often used in connection to disease and illness, preventing the movement of those who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, but do not have a confirmed medical diagnosis. The term is often used synonymously with medical isolation, in which those confirmed to be infected with a communicable disease are isolated from the healthy population. More Info
Pandemic is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected people is not a pandemic. Further, flu pandemics generally exclude recurrences of seasonal flu. Throughout history, there have been a number of pandemics of diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis. One of the most devastating pandemics was the Black Death, which killed an estimated 75–200 million people in the 14th century. The current pandemics are HIV/AIDS and coronavirus disease 2019. Other notable pandemics include the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) and the 2009 flu pandemic (H1N1). More Info
This week saw the Coronovirus epidemic spread rampantly across Europe and Middle East even as it reared its head in India. This led to the US benchmark bonds bottoming out as global finances took a hit because of fears of a pandemic. US and Taliban decided to put an end to their sometimes covert, often overt war of the past 2 decades – but all signs point towards this becoming a flashback of Vietnam. Back home, GST collections kept showing positive growth while the behind-the-scenes machinations of the 2020 Delhi riots unravelled over the week leading to controversies and conspiracies.
Sarojini Naidu (née Chattopadhyay; 13 February 1879 – 2 March 1949) was an Indian political activist and poet. A proponent of civil rights, women’s emancipation, and anti-imperialistic ideas, she was an important figure in India’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. Naidu’s work as a poet earned her the sobriquet Nightingale of India.
Born in a Bengali family in Hyderabad, Naidu was educated in Chennai, London and Cambridge. Following her time in England, where she worked as a suffragist, she was drawn to Indian National Congress’ movement for India’s independence from British rule. She became a part of the Indian nationalist movement and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his idea of swaraj. She was appointed the President of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and later became the Governor of the United Provinces in 1947, becoming the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.
Naidu’s poetry includes both children’s poems and others written on more serious themes including patriotism, romance, and tragedy. Published in 1912, “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” remains one of her most popular poems. She was married to Govindarajulu Naidu, a general physician and had five children with him. She died of a cardiac arrest on 2 March 1949. More Info