A winning strategy
Whatever the opposition may argue, the figures in the fight against COVID-19 point to the success of the Modi Government’s strategy of complete lockdown
As per the orders issued by the Home Ministry, the nationwide lockdown has been extended till 17 May. This third stage, known as Lockdown 3.0 is different in some respects than the lockdown of the first two phases. In the third phase, some areas have been given conditional exemption based on the risk profiling of the districts. For example, in green zone areas, permission has been granted for certain services including resumption of traffic, markets etc. At the same time, some relaxation has also been given to the yellow zone areas.
At present, out of 733 districts in the country, 130 districts lie in red zone, 284 districts in yellow zone and 319 in green zone. Give the current scenario, 17 per cent of districts in the country shall be facing red zone restrictions while 38 of districts shall be entitled to the relaxations being given in yellow zone. Local transport, government offices, selected shops and wage labour related works have got conditional exemption in 43 per cent of districts that are designated as green zone districts. However, there hasn't been any exemption whatsoever in case of rail and air traffic, malls, hotels, restaurants etc., till May 17. This implies that the Government has made an effort to give relaxation in lockdown with conditions for large parts of the country. However, the role of states shall also assume importance herein.
Lockdown 3.0 gives initial indications that the Government has begun to find an effective way in getting out of the grim situation. Also, the Government's focus is on those places where the risk of Coronavirus is more probable. Undoubtedly, in the last one and a half months, the Modi Government's decisions have achieved considerable success in the fight against COVID-19. The decision of the lockdown seems to be heading in the right direction.
Experts believe that the fight against the Coronavirus shall be prolonged. In many cases, it is believed to affect human life for years. In such a situation, the decision of complete lockdown by Prime Minister Modi is said to be an effective factor for two reasons. The first is that the Government has succeeded in saving the country from the situation of 'community transmission' by a complete lockdown. Secondly, the Government has prepared for future challenges at the level of the National Health System. There are some solid grounds behind saying this.
It is evident from the figures that had the two-stage lockdown had not taken place, the picture of Corona transmission in the country would have been entirely different. On March 24, the rate of increase of Corona infected patients in India was 21.6 per cent, which has now come down to 10 per cent. Statistics reveal that had the lockdown not happened, the number of corona infected people in India today would have been more than 2 lakh.
A major achievement of the lockdown in the last two stages was that the country was successful in increasing the number of COVID-19 tests, thereby avoiding the horrors of community transmission. After Germany, India is the only country which has conducted 7, 70,000 tests per 1000 Corona infected deaths. According to a newspaper report, on the day when 1,000 COVID infected deaths occurred in the USA, it was able to conduct only 5,59,468 tests. A major reason behind this success of India as compared to other countries was the implementation of lockdown at the right time. Even though the number of tests was low in the initial days but India has quickly accelerated the pace of the tests. As of May 9, India has done more than 15,23,000 lakh tests. During this time, 339 government labs and more than 105 private labs have also come up in the country.
It is worth noting that as of May 1, less than 100 Corona-infected patients in India needed ventilators, less than 500 needed oxygen support and less than 800 needed ICU. Viewed from this perspective, the Government has made adequate preparations. By April 22, the government had succeeded in building 724 COVID hospitals, more than 12 thousand ventilators and 24 thousand ICUs in the country. Certainly, this number must have increased substantially by now. Had the lockdown not occurred in the first two stages, then such adequate preparations compared to the Corona infected might not have been possible.
One of the advantages of taking the right steps at the right time was that India had identified its medical resources in treating COVID. This is precisely the reason that the death rate in India was less than 4 per cent, while the recovery ratio stands at more than 25 per cent. This ratio has steadily increased since April 10.
Now that the Lockdown 3.0 has been declared till May 17 it is but natural to assess the future situation. One advantage of dividing the country into zones on the basis of COVID effect is that the government shall now be able to focus both on the fight against the Coronavirus as well as ensuring the ease of living. There will be a clear picture in front of the government. One, it has to give priority to the eradication of the virus and two, it has to pay attention to bring other subjects of public welfare back on track. In such a situation, efforts can be started swiftly to normalise the situation gradually by using the administrative and social resources available in 319 districts falling under the green zone category. Also, it will be possible to use the administrative and social resources in the red zone areas in the direction of eradicating the virus more quickly. It, therefore, would not be a mistake to say that the Modi government in the process of communicating with the state governments has a clear-cut vision in dealing with the situation.
Whatever the opposition may argue, the facts and figures related to the COVID-19 amply demonstrate that the decisions made our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi are proving to be a success. In various interviews, Modi has said that the opponents fail to understand him. Perhaps even this time, those who are questioning the lockdown are living in a fool's paradise.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow with the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. Views expressed are strictly personal