Lockdown Extended or Not: The Multi-Billion Dollar Question
As India enters the last week of the 40-day lockdown, the big question on everyone’s minds is whether India is ready to end this extended lockdown on May 3. And the reason why this doubt persists is an important one. While the average increase in coronavirus positive cases during the pre-lockdown period stood at 20%, it came down to an optimistic 12% during the lockdown. But this reveals only half the truth. It is important to note that from March 25 to April 27, the country has been adding about 805 cases per day. This development pauses one to think whether India really has entered a plateau with regards to the COVID-19 numbers.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister held his fourth round of collective talks with the Chief Ministers of states to discuss a strategic withdrawal of the lockdown. During the discussion however, it emerged that five out of nine CMs while present there were in favour of discussing an exit policy, while being open to an extension of the lockdown beyond May 3rd.
While most BJP-run states are keen to follow the recommendations of the Centre to plan the road ahead, many others like Telangana which has officially extended the extension till May 7, is already mulling an extension till the May 25. Earlier, the CM had made an appeal to the people of the state to support an extension of the lockdown.
India has seen huge variations when it comes to individual states. In places like Maharashtra and Gujarat, the COVID-19 numbers have spiked, while Kerala and Karnataka have managed to get the situation under control encouragingly. In Maharashtra, Mumbai and Pune have been the worst hit and are considered the biggest COVID-19 hotspots. Encouragingly, 231 places were removed from Mumbai’s containment zone list because no new cases have emerged from those locations over the past two weeks. The extension in cities of Mumbai and Pune although a bit relaxed in the coming days would still mean that the lockdown might be extended at their biggest containment zones. Delhi in the meantime is mulling the extension till May 16. Meanwhile, Assam and other northeastern states have been the least affected by the pandemic, these states are considering a phased withdrawal of the lockdown.
The Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Kerala, AP and Bihar have wished for a relaxation on interstate transport to allow stranded migrants making their way to their homes.
As per experts, the number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 21,132, while 6,361 people have recovered in India. According to the Health Ministry data updated last evening, the highest number of confirmed cases in the country are from Maharashtra at 8,068, followed by Gujarat at 3,301, Delhi at 2,918, Rajasthan at 2,185, Madhya Pradesh at 2,168, Uttar Pradesh at 1,955 and Tamil Nadu at 1,885.
But what does this unpredictable lockdown mean for the economic activity in the country? It is believed that most states which are currently in the midst of the harvest season have already finished harvesting the crops, due to special permissions granted during the lockdown in most states. Education institutes, shopping malls, religious places and public transportation are most likely remain shut post May 3rd. According to experts, the initial 21-day lockdown period had been estimated to cost India nearly $4.5 billion every single day. With the shutdown of liquor shops in the country, many states have expressed concerns of having depleted excise collections a well.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, China had eased restrictions in Wuhan — the epicentre of the pandemic, on April 7th. Austria opened up on April 14, Germany on April 19 and Switzerland on April 27. Italy and Australia are planning on easing the lockdown restrictions in the upcoming week. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier announced that coronavirus has been currently eliminated in their country. Yet, restrictions in most countries will continue, for example Germany which eased restrictions on April 19, saw a daily rise of 2,475 cases on an average. This makes the government’s role even more important than ever before.
As to what will happen after May 3rd, the jury is still out on that for now. While the nation is gearing to make a comeback, individual states shall decide on the road ahead considering the ground situation in mind. What is known for sure is that the restrictions won’t be lifted all at once, the states will continue to monitor daily results, before easing out completely. The cure for coronavirus lies in finding its vaccine, and hundreds of companies worldwide are in various stages of the clinical trial. Till we have that in our hands, this fear shall linger.
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