With Lockdown 3.0 on its last legs amid talk of future iterations with fewer controls, it should be left to state governments to decide how they proceed. The outbreak’s intensity and spread are manifesting differently in each state and wide sweeps from New Delhi’s vantage point must yield to decision making by state governments to remedy economic repercussions, closer as they are to ground realities. Freezing economic activity is no longer an option. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has proposed, rightly, that restrictions remain only in containment zones while other places, including markets, reopen.
Colour coded restrictions at district level are far too sweeping and restrictive for any meaningful economic activity to restart. Europe and the United States, despite greater resources, social security cushioning for economic distress and higher incidence of Covid-19 cases, are reopening faster than India after less stringent lockdowns. Neighbouring China made a strong statement throwing open a Disneyland in Shanghai. Meanwhile in India, migrants continue to trudge home on foot thanks to limited transport options.
Containment zones must be sharply defined and thus minimally disruptive for those not in immediate proximity, otherwise entire localities could find themselves locked in again as the Covid trajectory nears peaking point. An open letter from a group of internationally renowned scientists and doctors strongly urges the use of masks to reduce coronavirus transmission, warning that patients are most infectious in the pre-symptomatic stage. Despite masks becoming compulsory, perhaps the most simple workaround we have, people continue to violate the official directive. Governments must get cracking in this direction instead of bureaucratic hair splitting over essential and non-essential commodities/ services, or red, green and orange zones. Low on confidence and ridden by fear psychosis, businesses and citizens emerging from the lockdown will benefit from clear signalling. Eschew long, unwieldy sets of regulations in favour of a minimal number of physical distancing rules.