Stage of inflection, breaking chain of transmission, social distancing as a primary means of preventing spread, availability of health and emergency infrastructure among seven factors signifying importance of the decision.
On 24 March, two days after successful Janata Curfew, Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking to the nation announced 21 days extended national lock down to beat the spread of Corona Virus or COVID 19.
The Prime Minister said, “From midnight tonight onwards, the entire country, please listen carefully, the entire country shall go under complete lockdown. In order to protect the country, and each of its citizens, from midnight tonight, a full ban is being imposed on people from stepping out of their homes”.
“All the States in the country, all the Union Territories, each district, each municipality, each village, each locality is being put under lockdown. This is like a curfew only. This will be a few levels more than Janata-Curfew, and also stricter. This is a necessary step in the decisive fight against Corona Pandemic,” Mr Modi added.
This comes days after a number of States such as Maharashtra and Punjab had announced a full civil curfew while many others a total lockdown up to 31 March.
The decision by the States was not considered adequate as there were geographic gaps. For instance while Delhi had a lockdown, neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had only a partial one.
Thus a national level blockade was important and has been announced.
The executive decision for national lockdown was taken by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), chaired Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, in exercise of the powers under section 6(2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The NDMA issued an Order dated 24.03.2020, directing the Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, and the State/Union Territory Governments and State/ Union Territory Authorities to take effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
In compliance of the said Order of NDMA, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an Order dated 24.03.2020 under Section 10(2)(l) of the Disaster Management Act, directing the Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, State/Union Territory Governments and State/ Union Territory Authorities to take effective measures for ensuring social distancing so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The Order shall remain in force, in all parts of the country, for a period of 21 days with effect from 25.03.2020.
Here are the seven reasons why COVID 19 lockdown is important
Firstly, India is at the inflection stage for exponential spread of the virus.
As the Prime Minister said in his speech, “It took 67 days for the count of people infected with Corona to reach the 1st one lakh all over the world. After this, it took only 11 days for another one lakh people to get infected. ….This is even more alarming that it took only 4 days for this disease to reach three lakh people from the count of two lakh”.
Secondly as the virus spreads rapidly from person to person there is a need for breaking the cycle of transmission.
One such attempt was made through Janata Curfew on 22 March, however this was not considered adequate enough nor the isolation that was ordered by various states the same day.
Thirdly - social distancing is regarded as a key measure to break the chain. Maintaining a distance of 1.5 to 2 metres person to person assumes importance. While it may be argued that as most people are healthy maintaining distance between two healthy persons is not necessary. The fact is that the virus takes seven to ten days to germinate in the body and at times even more than 14 days. Thus identifying a carrier is virtually difficult till he or she shows symptoms, thus social distancing norms are applicable to all including the healthy.
Fourthly the number of persons who may be infected in India in case the transmission chain is not broken is likely to be huge.
A country with 1.3 billion have to cater for millions of cases which would have simply overwhelmed the health and hospital administration.
Once again going back to the Prime Minister’s speech countries as the United States and Italy which have advanced health care and medical facilities have been overwhelmed by the ballooning of cases.
Fifthly, now that the Government has taken a stock of the situation both the likely spread and the requirement of upgrading health and emergency care, it is hoping that the 21 days period will enable a plan to be put in place for meeting a breakout, which itself will be restrained.
Sixthly and what medical research has proved – delaying the peak assumes importance to prevent a viral breakout.
Finally for a unitary state, decision by the Central Government reinforces the federal structure by supplementing the actions by states.
For these seven reasons the well-considered decision by the government of India for a 21 days lockdown thus assumes importance.
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