PM Modi urged states to use lockdowns only as a “last resort” two weeks ago. Everyone now considers it as the best way to stop the world’s worst virus epidemic, from his political allies to top business executives and US President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor.
PM Modi’s last year’s decision to enforce a nationwide lockdown without notice brought a humanitarian crisis as migrant workers fled on foot to rural areas, complicating the debate. Although the Prime Minister is keen to avoid such criticism in the future, especially after his Bharatiya Janata Party lost an election in West Bengal when votes were counted on Sunday, even states run by his party are ignoring his advice.
“One of the issues is this false perception that it’s either absolute lockdown, which is equal to economic catastrophe or no lockdown, which equals to the public health disaster,” said Catherine Blish, an infectious disease specialist and global health expert at Stanford Medicine in California. “What is currently taking place is a health and economic tragedy. It’s not healthy for your people or your economy if large swaths of your population become ill.”
In the last few weeks, overcrowding at crematoriums scenes and urgent calls for oxygen from the hospital were shown continuously on news outlets and social media. The number of daily deaths in India has slowed slightly after reaching a new high of 3,689 on Sunday, but the number of daily cases has remained above 350,000 for the past few days.
While policymakers have indicated that they are willing to take measures to support development, economists say that if the virus curve does not flatten, it will put pressure on monetary and fiscal policies at a time when most of the traditional room has already been occupied.
The quickest way to break the chain of transmission is to hold people far enough apart so that the virus can’t hop from one person to the next. Some experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the United States, believe that a temporary shutdown is necessary.