Rajat Sharma

How India brought the Coronavirus pandemic under control

akb3010We can now say that the Coronavirus pandemic is now under control in India. There are no signs of community spread as yet. Scientists say that a huge crisis has been averted. If we go by the assessments of top experts, the overall statistics are enough for all of us to heave a sigh of relief.

Timely imposition of nationwide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, soon after banning all international air traffic, has helped India in putting a brake on the exponential growth in cases as was being feared a month ago.

On Friday, the government said that the situation is now under control with close to 25,000 positive cases and the doubling rate has now touched 10 days compared to the earlier doubling rate of 3 days. A member of NITI Aayog said, had we delayed the lockdown, the number of cases could have crossed one lakh by now.

The lockdown, preceded by screening of all international passengers, enforcement of surveillance and tracing of contacts in cooperation with state police, has yielded the desired results. According to statisticians, COVID-19 growth rate in India has fallen from 22 per cent to 8 per cent now. The doubling rate is expected to rise from 10 days to 14 days within the next 2-3 days, experts said.

India is now in a position to claim that it has succeeded in stemming community spread of the virus. In the initial days, the numbers of cases and deaths were less. There was a lurking fear that if testing was done on a bigger scale, the numbers could jump exponentially. Now that more than 5 lakh tests have been done, the pandemic can be said to have been brought under control. However the number of 5 lakhs is nothing in a nation of 1.38 billion people.

I spoke to several experts and they said that tests are not the only tool to measure the growth of a pandemic. Several other tools of measurement were applied. For example, it was checked whether a large number of people went to hospitals and dispensaries with complaints of fever, cold, cough and pneumonia. The answer was no. Whether a large number of medicines for common cold, cough and pneumonia were sold from chemist shops? The answer was no. It was checked whether there was a spurt in the number of patients with chest infection reaching ICUs. The answer was no. Beds in many ICUs of hospitals are now lying empty.

The pandemic was not brought under control in two or three days. The story begins 30 days ago. March 23 was the crucial date when the infected virus changed directions in India. In the beginning, the number of cases was doubling in three days, later it stretched to five days. This was because the government had started banning all incoming international flights and there was mandatory screening at airports for all passengers. Finally, nearly 9 lakh people were kept under surveillance.

The second stage began on April 6, when the initial results of the lockdown were visible. The doubling rate has risen to 10 days. This was because of people staying inside their homes and maintaining social distance. Even then there was no guarantee that the virus reaching community spread stage could be stopped. Trains, buses, offices and factories came to a standstill. Millions of people stayed inside their homes. The experts needed time to assess the results of the nationwide lockdown.

The complete assessment of results of the 30-day lockdown came out on Friday. Experts said, they can now safely say that the pandemic is under control. Chances of community spread are now low.

I want to specifically mention here, this could not have happened without the full cooperation of millions of Indians who rose as one to heed the Prime Minister’s appeal. This could not have happened if the police had not strictly enforced lockdown norms. Doctors and police personnel joined hands to trace contacts of Corona patients, got them tested and localities were put under surveillance. This could not have happened without the timely intervention of District Magistrates who worked in tandem with the local police.

Had the lockdown not been enforced strictly, had the contacts not been traced, had the tests not been carried out, the number of Coronavirus cases in India could easily have crossed a lakh by now. And had the total figure reached a lakh, there was no force on earth that could have stopped it from escalating to 10 or 20 lakhs.

Watch what happened in the US, Spain, Italy and France. ICUs in hospitals were choked, patients needing treatment were lying outside hospitals, ventilators were in short supply, the doctors and healthcare staff had no PPE (personal protective equipment) to wear, and in some places, even the masks were in short supply.

We should also understand the challenges that came in the way. Nobody had dreamed of such a large number of Tablighi Jamaat workers coming out of the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi and spreading out to 20 states. Because of the Jamaat, more than 40,000 people had to undergo tests.

For the police and doctors, it was a challenging task to find out the Jamaat workers and their contacts because religious feelings were involved. Since they succeeded, we can now say that India is safe. Because of the timely decision to enforce lockdown, we can now say that we are all safe.

The nationwide lockdown was a sagacious decision taken on the advice of experts. There was meticulous planning behind the decision. I would rather say that India is fortunate to have Narendra Modi as its prime minister in this hour of crisis, otherwise we could have seen visuals of bodies piling up, as we saw in the US, Italy and Spain. The contribution of our state chief ministers is no less. It is because of their active role that we can now say that the pandemic is now under control.

The entire nation as one shouldered the burden of lockdown. For now, the people will have to bear with these difficulties till May 3. The whole nation changed its behavior in the last one month and converted the government’s war against Corona to a people’s war. Without an iota of doubt, I can now say, that if we, the people of India, stand united in this hour of crisis, we can beat this pandemic for sure.

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