Get back to work, taking precautions–Economic Times

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It is welcome that the government has finally changed the nomenclature of the next phase of the ongoing, calibrated emergence from lockdown to Unlock 1, instead of Lockdown 5. The name matters, as an economy is not quite a Romeo, whose name Juliet thought to be of no consequence.

Economies export and consumers in other lands would be wary of buying the produce of a part of the world that is locked down, ravaged by a dread disease. Allowing resumption of economic activity and inter-state movement of goods and people are apposite.

The philosophy guiding the unlocking of the economy was outlined by the prime minister in his radio message: India will get back to work and resume life, except in some select areas, taking every care, whether maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask or working from home as far as possible. It is up to individual states to decide how much of the permitted opening up is to be allowed within their territories.

It is to be hoped that the states would spend more energy on strengthening their healthcare systems than on clamping down on economic activity. India has one of the lowest casualty rates per million people in the entire world, with a population 82% of whom is below 50.

While obesity, diabetes and pulmonary diseases aggravate the impact of Covid-19, the real vulnerability is reserved for the elderly. While shielding them from exposure to the virus, including, as far as possible, within multi-generational homes as well, working-age Indians must get back to work.

Governments must ensure that the 2.5% or so of those infected who would require intensive care in a hospital have access to such care. The rest must have the assurance that they would be provided care, should they require it. That must be manifested, not in assurances by leaders but by a robust administrative mechanism visibly active.

The Centre must now turn its attention to forging a stimulus package that will generate demand for industry as it resumes work and on mitigating the ills of financial intermediation that had crippled the economy even before Covid struck.

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