If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years’ warned the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi as he called for a 21-day lockdown in the nation to declare a fight against coronavirus. Proclaiming a ‘Janata Curfew’ on 22nd March, he appealed to 1.3 billion citizens of India to practice social distancing and stay indoors, as the essential workers brace the frontline to tackle the infectious disease and stem the transmission chain of the virus.
The Government of India’s early-on attempt to delay the entry of novel coronavirus in the country was hailed as timely, robust and proactive by the World Health Organization. The Government subjected passengers coming from Hong Kong and China to thermal screening and scrutiny from 18th January itself, followed by a halt on inbound flights from infected countries. 36 lakh passengers were screened, and a team of medical experts was set up at 30 airports in the country. The surveillance system was strengthened, and the heads of the states were directed to take strict action against individuals who were breaking the quarantine protocol amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
As of 29th March, India continues to see an escalation in coronavirus cases as the infected cases reach 979 and the death toll rises to 25 in the country. Calling for immediate actions and fight against coronavirus, the Government is spearheading efforts. It has pledged financial support and robust public healthcare system along with the corporates and private sectors to flatten the curve as soon as possible. India is one of the densely-populated countries that stands a fair chance to have a high number of infected cases. Hence all reasonable precautions are looked into to prevent contamination.
The Government has also been working closely with Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO’s representative to India to fight against coronavirus and prepare the country for the COVID-19 pandemic. They are working on strengthening the surveillance system and contact tracing, laboratory diagnosis, risk communications, community engagement, hospital preparedness, infection prevention and control as well as the implementation of contamination plan.
The Indian Railways has joined the fight against coronavirus too by turning coaches into clean and hygienic isolation wards, in case the country was to witness a shortage of hospital beds and wards. Several social do-gooders and corporate leaders are pooling in monetary efforts to strengthen the public healthcare system. In the wake of lockdown, the worst hit being the underprivileged sector and daily wage labourers, a relief package of 1.7 lakh crore was announced by the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th March 2020 to ensure no man, woman or child goes hungry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package includes a mix of direct cash transfer to free food for the elderly, widow, poor, farmers and daily wage labourers. Around 80 crore people are to be aided with rice, wheat, and pulses under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna (PMGKAY) for over three months. 50 lakhs insurance cover has also been announced for health workers, which include all essential workers from sweepers to doctors, will be compensated by the Government in case of an accident. The package also ensures free gas cylinders for underprivileged families, and as for the small-scale establishments and businesses that have PF and EPF schemes, the Government will bear the cost of EPF contribution of both the employee and employer.
Raging a fight against coronavirus, the Government has hit the ground running to stem the transmission chain and prevent India from entering Stage 3 (community transmission). Emergency centres have been set up in each state to help and destress citizens during the lockdown. Free masks are being distributed, the elderly and poor are being educated about the novel coronavirus disease and our essential workers are pulling all-nighters to put up a brave front and fight against coronavirus. On 28th March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also introduced an Emergency Situation Relief Fund and appealed to the citizens to donate for a healthier nation.
Though it’s too early to say if the 21-day lockdown will help to break the virus transmission chain, the purpose of each citizen right now is to support the cause of the Government and the essential workers. They are doing their bit, so let’s do ours by staying indoors, taking care of the elderly and washing our hands regularly.