GP Insights # 349, 2 May 2020
India extended the nationwide lockdown by 14 days - up to 17 May under the Disaster Management Act 2005. The official notification came on 1 May.
The "Lockdown-3" however, has come with some relaxation based on the total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, the extent of testing, and surveillance feedback from the districts till date.
The government have divided the districts into three zones at the national level: Red (Hotspots), Orange and Green. Red zones will face intensified surveillance protocols, contact tracing and full coverage of Aarogya Setu App. Containment zones within hotspots will undergo house-to-house surveillance, quarantining of affected, and clinical management to ensure strict perimeter.
Districts that either have no confirmed cases till date or in the last 21 days are in the Green zones. Orange zones are neither in Red nor in Green zones. These classifications are, however, 'dynamic' and would be updated weekly. Blanket bans on any congregation and reopening of educational institutions will continue in all the zones.
What is the background?
The 54-days lockdown, beginning 25 March, was aimed to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections. Out of 733 districts, 170 were hotspots and 209 were designated as potential hotspots by 15 April. Relaxation was based on improvement; so far, there are 130 districts in Red zones, 284 in Orange, and 319 in Green zones.
Top priority was to contain the spread, which stands achieved even though there has been a surge in confirmed positive cases in the country. A delicate balance between the health and economic imperatives has become sine quo non in order to avoid bigger disaster in the making in the next few weeks.
Loss of jobs, curtailment of salaries, consequent loss of purchasing power, and lessening of demands would lead to a vicious cycle battering the economy. Loss of economic activity has impacted India's GDP growth to the extent of 98 billion dollars in the first 21 days lockdown period alone.
Poverty has deepened further giving an imperative to reopen the economy of the country.
What does it mean?
The decision came owing to significant gains towards arresting the virus-spread to Stage-3 - Community Infection Stage. There is no confirmed curable medicine, and the vaccine is still at the trial stage. Accordingly, India had no choice but to extend the lockdown and restrain movement to and from the infected districts.
The outbreak of the pandemic coupled with the lockdown, has led to severe long-term economic disruptions, the brunt of which will have to be borne further. Millions of migrant workers deprived of their daily income who are stranded across India shall have some respite. Ninety per cent of India's workforce, which is in the informal sector, with no minimum wages and social security, will be facilitated.
The gradual easing of economic activities has become essential. Within different districts, there could have been red, green and orange areas. Sealing of these zones, rather than zoning the entire district could ensure restarting of the economic activities.