Opinions Column: Lockdown – Useful or Not?

By Amira Singh, The British School, New Delhi

While nature seems to be on the mend during the COVID induced coma in Delhi, this situation caused by the pandemic doesn’t seem to be improving.

Even though the Central government hasn’t declared the existence of community spreading in Delhi, the 25% COVID-19 positivity rate as of June 7, 2020 implies that community transmission is taking place in the national capital. [1]

Despite having the highest Covid positivity rate in the country, Delhi’s recovery rate has fallen to 39.58% as of June 4 from the 48.1% as of May 25. [2] This almost 9% decrease signals the lack of preparedness of Delhi hospitals. Whatsapp messages from various Delhi hospital officials have been circulating stating that hospitals cannot afford to bear more patients due to the lack of beds, and people should assume the protocols of the very first lockdown imposed, in order to stay safe. This is furthered by the circulating stories of hospitals refusing to admit patients.

COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives greatly, and we have all had to adapt in these last couple of months. From walking around the corridors of school or our offices, we now walk around the house trying to find the spot with the best WIFI so we can listen to our teachers or coworkers clearly.

While some have the privilege to work from home, 23.48% of Indians were unemployed in the month of May, a whopping 15.61% increase from June 2019 [(2020, June 12). Centre for monitoring Indian economy].

The ‘life vs livelihood’ choice that has been motivating most people to stay home, doesn’t seem to be valid for a huge population of workers in India as Mr Junaid Ahmad, The World Bank country director for India, claimed in his webinar. This choice that is probably applicable for most Swedish citizens may not be the case for a lot of Delhi’s migrant labour and daily wage worker population. For them, their livelihood was and is their life, it allowed them to support themselves and their families on a daily basis, which they are unable to do due to the vast structural unemployment. Reverse migration to the rural areas not only puts pressure on the minimal resources in rural areas for healthcare and jobs, but also prevents many businesses in cities like Delhi from resuming production, due to the lack of cheap casual labour. This may even result in an increase in production in the agricultural sector of India with more and more people returning to their rural native homes with little motivation to try and move back into the cities after the pandemic. [3]

While continuing a strict lockdown may seem to be the most obvious decision, it may not be the best one. Despite imposing a lockdown, Delhi’s cases have been rising greatly. Using the lockdown to build up hospital resources in order to treat COVID patients may still be necessary, but there are various other factors that also come into play. People will continue to lose jobs in a prolonged lockdown as businesses lose sales revenue as they can’t start production or sales of most non-essential goods. Lockdown means a stop on most economic activity, but is this sustainable?

On the other hand, the opening of the commercial offices and factories may be extremely difficult while trying to follow the health and safety protocols in workplaces. If one worker tests positive, the economic activity must be halted in that building for another 14 days. This can be very expensive for businesses, especially due to the stigma associated with COVID which could lead to many customers taking their custom elsewhere, especially in Delhi. This could be seen in the case of Defence colony market: a rumor that was circulating in Delhi, claiming that a lot of workers in the market have tested positive, led to people boycotting Defence colony market for a while.

With India being the only country with an increasing number of daily cases before and after the lockdown was lifted, prolonging a lockdown could be a very controversial decision, especially since the curbs were unable to control the spread of the disease.

Source List: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zfTa6CZyduKrYg3WTw3GYyoFXLSMHNV1nl-_4CsEAGE/edit?usp=sharing

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