The daily increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in India has begun to show a declining trend. This is the obvious result of the lockdown, which has prevented community spread of the virus. As reported, a significant 325 of India’s 736 districts are corona free, and there has been no case in 27 over the past fourteen days. Uttarakhand is a good example of how the spread of the disease has been stopped in its tracks, with its hill districts being in the ‘green’ zone according to the latest criteria. All this has also given time to the Centre and the states to prepare on the medical front in case the numbers spike dangerously.
Two significant dates the Union Government has identified as pivots for future action are 20 April and 3 May. The next few days will confirm the general trend on the epidemic’s spread, allowing for many of the restrictions to be loosened where it is thought possible. It is not possible from the point of view of the people’s well-being to extend the lockdown too much beyond 3 May, which is why consideration is now being given to economic issues.
The announcements made by the RBI Governor on Friday are part of the plan to help Industry get back on its feet by, mainly, providing much needed working capital on easy terms. Increased liquidity of banks, it is hoped, will allow them to go easy on loan repayment and stimulate investment. The next stage in this regard will be a package from the government that will likely reduce the tax burden to the necessary extent.
All of this, however, depends heavily on success in containing transmission of the virus. It will also require, very importantly, a crucial change in public behaviour even when the wheels of commerce begin to turn. While the hotspots will remain locked down till such time the various levels of screening result in all clear signals, there is always the possibility of the virus making its way back. This is why social distancing and higher levels of public sanitation will have to become a permanent feature in Indian life. Already, life has changed considerably in the parts of the world where public spaces are being opened up – hotels, restaurants, malls, clubs, gyms, etc. It may be that a vaccine or cure will render this present virus ineffective in the future, but public interaction will never be the same again for fear of another taking its place. The social protocols will have to be upgraded everywhere to meet the challenge.