The outbreak of the lethal Covid- 19 has brought the world to a standstill. While the world waits for a panacea, health experts have advised that the best way to control the spread is to stay indoors and maintain social distance. In order to tackle the pandemic, the Government of India, announced its first stage of national lockdown for 21 days from March 25 to April 14.
Given the rising number of confirmed cases and deaths in the country, the government on April 14 extended the lockdown till May 3. As it implements the second round of lockdown, the government has to assure adequate supply of food and shelter for underprivileged citizens, especially the unorganized working sector and the daily wage labourers who are stuck within state borders across the country.
As many are standing on the frontline – including doctors, policemen, drivers and grocery shop owners – fighting against the virus, the government needs to do everything to ensure their safety as they are the backbone of the country at this difficult time. During the first lockdown, people had come together in support of the government’s directives to prevent the spread of the virus and will continue to support despite the immense hardships and difficulties they face.
The extended lockdown will have both positive and negative implications on the people and society as a whole. As the global economy is now entering in its worse recession, the impact will be felt by all. With only essential goods being produced, there will be a negative impact on both the supply and demand side of the market chain, with a fall in GDP and a rise in unemployment rates.
Large-scale industries like automobiles, steel and cement will be badly hit as there is already a slowdown in demand for these commodities. Even the small-scale industries like handicrafts and handlooms will experience a similar fall in demand for products. Citizens will likely stick to buying essential goods; thus, industries producing luxury goods will suffer the low side of the demand cycle. As the sale of only essential goods is allowed during this lockdown, big industries working in multiple sectors will perhaps put their resources for the production of essential goods either to maintain their earnings or to save their businesses.
Since other goods are either slashed or not produced, once the lockdown ends a surge in demands of other commodities may lead to a price hike primarily due to inadequate supply of commodities. Education institutes are shut throughout the country and are exploring ways to moving to an online mode. The system, which is new to many institutions and educators, may hamper or reduce the quality of education being imparted.
The lockdown has also hugely impacted the country’s tourism. The demand for food and beverages, recreational and entertainment industries, as well as hospitality sector will continue to remain low in the near future. Psychologically, the lockdown may also lead to mental breakdown of many individuals, especially the aged and infirmed people.
But there is also a brighter side of the lockdown which many fail to see or have not paid much attention to. Since the first lockdown began on March 25, there has been a fall in the pollution level, which means cleaner air and improved quality of river water. As a lot of industries are shut or temporarily closed, there is lesser emission of industrial waste.
The lockdown has transformed people into law-abiding citizens or even enforcers in many instances, which was usually a challenging task for law enforcers across the country. The extended lockdown will allow healthcare providers to better prepare themselves. More importantly, the lockdown will contain and hopefully reduce the number of Covid-19 infections, and possibly give enough time to infected patients to recover.
Like any other government around the world, the Government of India is fighting a big war against an invisible enemy. If and when the virus reaches community transmission stage, the number of cases will increase rapidly. Therefore, it is essential for governments both at the Centre and states to identify Covid-19 victims and take all necessary measures, including sufficient quarantine centers and testing kits.
The government has already identified many Covid-19 hotspots around the country and is sanitizing them. This lockdown will allow authorities to identify other hotspots or potential hotspots of the virus and take necessary preemptive measures. Despite instances of racial slurs, Covid-19 and the lockdown bring people together for a common cause. Social media platforms are filled with videos of people cooking, exercising, and singing.
Many individuals have taken the responsibility to create a positive environment around themselves and for others. People are now more openly appreciating the efforts of those who have been a crucial part of society but were usually neglected or largely taken for granted in the past. Communities have also joined hands to help the underprivileged and other needy people.
The pandemic and the lockdown have taught humanity to live a minimalistic life, thereby putting less burden on nature and climate. The changes in lifestyle have given humanity time to think how people would like to live in a post-coronavirus world. It has also made humanity realise there is an opportunity to create a planet which is more peaceful, safer, greener and happier to live in.
But for now, until the lockdown comes to an end, the most important advice may be to stay home and stay safe. More importantly, it is time to follow the golden rule of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
(The writers are, respectively, Executive ? Director at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, and a research assistant at CSEAS)