Against extending lockdown anywhere–economic times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com

West Bengal has extended the state’s lockdown till the end of July. Karnataka contemplates a similar move. Gurugram, a hive of India Inc’s big kahunas, apart from being a hub of information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITeS), is also reportedly thinking of extending the lockdown. This is as useful as the dazzled paralysis of arabbit caught in the headlines. A lockdown at the beginning of an epidemic, as a strategy to contain its spread, is very different from a lockdown after the infection’s spread has got entrenched. In the early stages of an epidemic, a lockdown serves to trap the germ causing the infection in its limited habitats/hosts and buy time for the authorities to equip the healthcare system to deal with an escalated demand for its services. The collateral damage is to the economy and jobs. A lockdown after the infection has spread serves only to keep jobs and the economy in deep freeze without doing anything to kill the germs.

What the country needs now is to revitalise the economy and prevent misery due to want, while scaling up the healthcare system to treat those who fall ill, while taking every precaution to insulate those most vulnerable — the elderly and those with co-morbidities — from harm. It is clear that the vast majority who contract Covid either show few symptoms or get better after treatment at home. Only a tiny fraction of those who catch the disease require hospitalisation and, of these, barely 5% need intensive care and ventilators. With 81% of the population below the age of 50, India is one of the countries well placed to adopt a strategy of acquiring herd immunity by letting the infection spread while protecting/treating the vulnerable sections and those who fall severely ill. It has been the failure to equip the healthcare system to take on the added load that has resulted in avoidable deaths, not any failure to freeze life, as if it were a show streaming on your television.

Governments should show more commitment to popular welfare by expanding healthcare than to protecting their own political reputations by clamping down on life.

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