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Steering through crisis

Steering through crisis

Minimal movement was witnessed across the nation for 14 hours courtesy of the Janta Curfew. Cities wore a deserted outlook as an eerie silence prevailed across marketplaces, streets, bus stands, etc. Except for medical professionals, government workers, police and media, who reported to their respective tasks, entire India responded to the clarion call from its prime minister for the countrywide curfew that may become a norm for few days should the government feel so. Active cases rose past 300 as the death count climbed to six. The low fatality rate in India has been a tremendous boost for the nation's collective conscience. When PM took the stage to announce the Janta curfew, the country was already aware of the horrors of Covid-19 in Italy, Iran, South Korea, etc. With around three lakh infected and 13,000 casualties, the pandemic has virtually brought the entire world to a halt. Fortunately, India stands at a position where each and every case of the pathogen within its territory can be explained. In other words, there has not been a single instance of community transmission. Given India's staggering population, the fact that all cases are under quarantine and accounted for is in itself a big relief during such troubled times. A community transmission would be catastrophic, to say the least. Even so, experts and WHO have been recommending increased testing to draw a more accurate picture. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has revised its testing strategy and would be required to continuously do so in the coming weeks. The final week of March is absolutely crucial to contain the pathogen. As per reports from severely-infected countries, cases compounded week after week to reach staggering figures. With India entering the fourth week of active cases, it is crucial that social distancing is practised religiously. After all, in these uncertain times, social distancing is perhaps the best measure against the pandemic. The Janta Curfew in a sense prepares the country for extreme lockdowns. Developed nations are reeling under the impact of the pandemic despite having superior healthcare services and technology at disposal. And, these nations don't even have a humongous population like India. Perils are clear and so are our options against it.

With the countrywide Janta Curfew serving as the beginning, several states have initiated a lockdown from March 22 to March 31. The National Capital Territory of Delhi is also under a virtual lockdown as all public places such as restaurants, cinema halls, malls, markets, etc., have been ordered to stay shut till the end of the month. Only groceries and pharmacies will function in the meantime. Though the prime minister has assured uninterrupted supply of essential items during the corona crisis, panic buying has to stop. It comes down to every last individual as the entire society stands threatened. The Indian Railways has halted all train services except goods trains in the country till March 31. As the last week of March dawns, India will make a serious attempt to restrict the spread of the Covid-19. State lockdowns as well as suspended Railway services will contribute in preventing infected people from traversing to places. While people are expected to self-quarantine in case of symptoms or travel history, the government has to take overarching measures to ensure public safety. State lockdowns will help in better accountability of cases and medical infrastructure in place to handle those. As states take cognisance of the outbreak within their territories, the Centre has to come up with a relief package along the lines of states and other countries. While it has successfully capped the prices of masks and sanitisers and ensured a regular supply of pharmaceuticals, the country needs a plan of action from the Centre. Just as the announcement of the Janta Curfew was made, the prime minister's address to the nation on our preparation and measures to be taken in the wake of hovering perils will not only benefit society but boost the national sentiment. Today when all other topics have been forcefully sidelined given the health emergency that looms large, a detailed plan of action and subsequent compliance by society is paramount. No vaccine and death tolls in Italy, Iran, etc., have created a cloud of fear that may result in increased panic. It is here that we require our government's intervention and direction as to how to steer through the prevailing crisis.

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