Saturday, April 11, 2020

Covid-19 How India should play it?

Covid-19 is playing havoc all around the world. It is devastating to one and all, be it developed countries or poor countries. Currently, it seems it is hitting hard developed countries but soon we will see that the impact on the poor and developing countries will be more devastating. though China has been able to reign it. However, no one knows when a subsequent wave might hit them. All said and done, the war with Covid 19 will be over in only two cases:
  • Vaccine, whenever we find it. the conservating estimates are showing that it will be anything upwards of one year. Hopefully, it will be easy to scale the manufacture in such large quantities as it will be needed by everyone in the world. 
  • Herd immunity is developed which means that the virus runs its own course throughout the world and there are enough people now immune to it so that it becomes very hard to spread.
Before anything happens on any one of the above fronts, we are still staring at deaths in large numbers. 

The Indian situation is more precarious as our economy was not in the pink of its health before Covid-19. We were just getting ready to recover from it before the pandemic. The lockdown has further aggravated the situation. What is needed now is very careful handling of the situation. Lifting lockdown unscrupulously will lead to the pandemic spreading with more vigor. With the social distancing a privilege in many of the places like Mumbai with a density of upwards of 20000 per square km, it will be a home run for the virus. Not lifting the lockdown will lead to a further dent in the stalled economy as the supply chain is completely broken now. Trucks are waiting at borders, laborers are missing from action. Even if the lockdown is lifted, it is still going to be a challenge to get the workers back and put the machines in the action. Governments and voluntary organizations are right now feeding migrant laborers which are stuck at various places all across the country. There is a limit where we can sustain the model. Governments are currently staring at no income and only expenses. This can be done to a point only. Resources are available to a level only and beyond that, we risk having social unrest.

What is the way to go forward? We definitely cannot lift the lockdown as all said and done the lockdown has helped in containing the numbers and pushing the curve further. the moment lockdown is lifted the numbers will start shooting up. With a better aware public, we still might see a slower upwards trajectory but then India is a country upwards of 130 billion people. All resources of the world put together will fall apart to handle it. We cannot boast about our health infrastructure. France and Italy are the top two countries in terms of health infrastructure and they are not able to handle it. We are not even in the top 100. And this is not the time why we are not. The question is what we can do in the given situation.

Right now we are following the strategy to close everything. I think we will have to go with the strategy of open everything and then start closing things that make sense. Targeting containment is the key to save from both pandemic and dysfunctional economy. Yes, we will run the risk of letting the curve go a little higher but it's a balance we will need to strike. The other thing is to make the public more and more aware of social distancing and the importance of taking care of himself/herself. Everyone has a role to play. some more concrete measures that can be taken:
  • Work from home for as many possible situations. 
  • Industries and establishments to run with a lower capacity. We can even adopt a 24-hour model so that at any given point in time minimum numbers of people are there in a given place.
  • Even at a colocated establishment, all meetings happen online.
  • The hotels and restaurant industry is going to suffer the most in this pandemic. Let them be allowed to open twenty-four hours but making sure social distancing is followed. The penalty for breaching should be very high. 
  • Encourage laborers to move back to work. This will help them as well as the economy. A working hand is better than a stomach that is dependent on the government for feed. Trains can be run to facilitate the movement with minimal people in a coach. 
  • This is an opportunity to fix the morally corrupt spine of our country. People should understand that this situation can not be handled by bribing. It needs self-discipline. 
  • Last but not least we need strong central coordination of all the resources. Right now the states seem to be fighting as per their understanding, which is right in having the control at a local level. However, we need strong central coordination which keeps making sure that all the keys in the piano are striking the right chord. The virus has to go out of India in one go.

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