India is now at a critical stage in the battle against COVID-19. The rise in the number of cases seems moderate except for three states, particularly as over a third of them are attributable to one ‘super-spreader’ event. If, however, there is a slip-up, the country could become the next disaster zone after all the other majorly hit nations get over the hump. Sadly, India’s economic capacity to take such a hit is very poor compared to these others and the long term consequences would be very bad. As such, it is crucial that everything possible is done now before the problem gets out of control.
This requires an even stricter implementation of the lockdown rules. It is no use chopping and changing these rules; what is far more important is that every person abides by them voluntarily and with full knowledge of why. Going by the evidence, much of the enforcement is being done through the lathi of the police. The role of local and community leaders becomes even more important in educating the people on the impact of disobedience, particularly on their near and dear ones, as also on their livelihoods.
On its part, the government is ramping up its preparations for the medical emergency that might come. There is a stage before that, however, which requires testing on a wider scale. This is easier said than done, as the tests remain in short supply. It will take some time for those being developed at home and purchased from abroad to appear on the frontlines. So, it becomes all the more important to push the possible rise in cases even further down the timeline. Hopefully, the issue of free testing by private labs will be resolved soon.
The locality level quarantines being imposed in some states are also a major step in containing the spread. ‘Hotspots’ are being identified, where the number of tests can be ramped up, thereby using scarce resources more effectively. The protocols on this have already been operationalised, which with further experience would be easily replicated. Those hoping for a quick resolution are going to be disappointed and should batten down for a much longer battle. The upside of this is that a more psychologically strong nation will emerge on the other side of this event, better prepared to take on the coming economic challenges that awaits.