Yes, social distancing is the only way to stop the geometric progression of the Corona storm.
But a 21-day-lockdown is absolute utter nonsense. It is Demonetisation Part 2, delivered callously, mindlessly, for the selfish and grandiose aims of a megalomaniac.
There are about 22 crore daily wage workers in India (conservative estimate) and about 24,000 of them commit suicide every year. You want to guess where those numbers will go this year?
There are about 54,000 births in India every day. You want to tell many of them how to get to hospital? There are about 17,000 deaths per day in India. You want to explain the logistics to many of those bereaved family members? Let’s not even go to everything in between.
As far as Covid-19 itself goes, go and look at the numbers. India had 61 new cases on Tuesday, after 103 on Monday – the first time the numbers dropped. Maybe this is a mirage; testing is inadequate, numbers are being downplayed, pneumonia from Covid-19 is not being classified here, etc. But it is also clear that the geometric progression of community spreading has not yet had a say in India, very emphatically so. The death tally just barely touched double figures. The hospitals are NOT swamped with patients. All right, not yet. Maybe.
By the way, while you’re at it, do look at the numbers in the hotter countries (let’s say above 25 degrees celsius). Brazil, Malaysia and Thailand are the outliers (among 35 countries) with about 1900, 1500 and 720 cases currently, that has been attributed to very high numbers of travellers. Altogether, there have been 49 deaths between these three countries. Again, maybe these are early days (no sign of geometric progression there either), but none of these countries have shut down the way India has, grandly announcing such a long period of time (maybe because they know what it might do to their economically disadvantaged). In fact, no country in the world has done what India just did, not on this scale. 8th November, 2016, anyone?
And what is the panic about this virus really about? The numbers suggest that 95% of people don’t even have to take medication to recover. At the very worst, they spend four weeks recovering at home. This is 95% of the people who get infected (Italy and Spain have been the only serious outliers to this; not clear yet why). Others, who essentially have respiratory issues, have to be taken to hospital (in time, which did not happen with many of the cases thus far, a very high workload for the medical infrastructure explains this, in Italy’s and Spain’s context too perhaps). The death rate, as is widely known by now, is largely amongst senior citizens and middle-aged people whose immune system is weaker (due to other ailments). The point is that if the hospitals are kept free only for those severe 5% cases, chances are good that the mortality rate will drop even more.
Let’s look at the worst case scenario, which, for some reason, has been the most popular take in the mainstream media – which is that 60% of India’s population would be infected in a year’s time. If we take a 4.5% death rate of those infected (which is the world average so far), that means a death toll of 3.74 crores (37.4 million). Really? An extreme prediction like this can be made with so much conviction, and get so much traction, while a simple extrapolation of facts available so far (which is not a small sample size) is deemed to be too optimistic? Is even perception in the mind based on hard facts such an uneven playing field now? Is it far-fetched to say that this kind of zero-economic output lockdown for 3 weeks will cause comparable damage, on a scale that will go far, far beyond what happened during demonetisation?
In any case, if infection were to occur on that scale in India, surely the priorities would change instantly? Social distancing would still be important, but instead of lockdowns, surely access to testing and basic medication would be the sensible priorities, so that people could recover at home, which would then leave the hospitals free for the more severe cases? But that necessarily requires the eradication of panic. Is any of our primary responses really serving that objective currently?
Can you think of just one good reason why this could not have been a one-week lockdown for now, after which they could renew or lift based on number of cases? What does this large-scale panic amongst those people at this stage accomplish? Forget those poor working class people, panic buying among the educated morons (a much more significant epidemic in India in recent times) for the second time in 3 days made a mockery of a “lockdown”.
It is not at all a coincidence that Modi’s speech had very little to do with the most obvious concerns most people have – of essential services and items, what is accessible, where and so on. Not a word about how the large working class is to deal with this life-changing crisis for them. It was just about how everyone has to give three weeks of his or her life to this miserable excuse for a leader, a gasbag PR King. So that the headache of the lockdown can be dealt with by the CMs of all the states, while the PM takes full credit with no accountability.
This is prescribed chemotherapy for influenza. It wouldn’t be the first time in these quarters that the treatment is more lethal than the disease. Maybe our outrage is getting immunodeficient now?