Lakhs of people across the country have been placed under lockdown until the end of the month as efforts to contain the fast spread of deadly coronavirus intensify.
Residents living in 75 districts across the country, including in major cities such as the capital New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata have been placed under travel, work and travel restrictions till March 31.
India — the world’s second most populous country in the world — has 415 cases of the coronavirus, including seven deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Dr. Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said that India has conducted 5,000 tests in the past week and a total of 15,000 so far.
There are 111 labs operational with a per week testing capacity of 60,000 to 70,000 and around 60 more private labs are in the process of being approved to further increase testing capacity, according to Bhargava.
The decision to lock down parts of the country comes after India launched the world’s biggest exercise in social distancing on Sunday, with the nation’s 1.3 billion people asked to observe a self-imposed quarantine for 14 hours.
Lockdown – the word is probably all over your social media feeds by now. Perhaps you’re feeling worried, or have friends or family who are. Don’t panic: we know you’re trying to understand what exactly is happening, and we’re here to help.
Check out these Q&As
WHERE IS THE LOCKDOWN HAPPENING?
Let’s break this down – there are three points to keep in mind.
First, there are now major curbs on passenger travel. Train services – that includes suburban lines, but not goods trains – have been suspended till March 31. So have metro services and inter-state buses.
Second, states have been asked to allow only essential services – more on that soon – to continue in 75 coronavirus-hit districts.
States can add districts if they feel they should.
Third, states are issuing their own lockdown orders.
Nagaland is going into indefinite lockdown starting at midnight; it has ordered all but essential commercial establishments to shut down and ordered commercial passenger vehicles off the roads.
Uttar Pradesh has placed 15 districts under lockdown between tomorrow and Wednesday.
Delhi’s lockdown begins at dawn tomorrow and will continue till March 31. Like Nagaland, it is sealing its borders.
So scan the news regularly to find out what your local government requires you to do.
DOES THIS MEAN EVERYTHING IS SHUT?
No. Obviously, it isn’t possible to shut down emergency services and establishments like grocery stores, ATMs or pharmacies – people still need to run their households.
For example, Delhi is exempting these services: “Law and order and magisterial duty, police, health, fire, prisons, fair price shops, electricity, water, municipal services, print and electronic media, teller operations including ATMs, food items, groceries, general provision stores, take-away delivery in restaurants, petrol pumps, LPG cylinder agencies, e-commerce of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.”
ARE WE OVERREACTING?
Not at all. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is highly infectious – infected people seem, on average, to pass it on to two or three other people.
Known as Sars-CoV-2 (“saars-kawv-two”), the virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced by coughing or breathing; these may be inhaled or ingested by a healthy person, or transferred by hand from contaminated surfaces to his (or her) eyes, nose or mouth.
So, it’s important to aggressively practice what’s known as social distancing – essentially, keeping people away from each other to break the chain of spread.
For example, if you have to meet someone, stay at least 1 metre away from him and don’t greet him with a hug or a handshake.
Larger-scale measures include work-from-home arrangements, cancelling events that usually involve large gatherings and lockdowns.
Strategies like social distancing and basic hygiene practices can help in controlling the spread of Covid-19 in a way that prevents the health system from being overwhelmed. Of course, lockdowns alone aren’t enough – as the World Health Organisation’s Mike Ryan recently said.
“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them,” he told.
“The danger right now with the lockdowns … if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”
The world is going through a difficult time, and it’s up to us to step and contribute to the fight against the new coronavirus.
Lockdowns are part of the solution, and we urge you to comply with orders – for your own good, and for the health of your family and community.
The National Task force for COVID-19, constituted by Indian Council of Medical Research, has recommended the use of hydroxy- chloroquine as prophylaxis (preventive drug) of SARS-COV-2 infection for high risk population.
Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, has been used to treat malaria since 1944.
It can be given before exposure to malaria to prevent infection, and it can also be given as treatment afterward.
Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite, unlike COVID-19.
Nevertheless, laboratory studies show chloroquine is effective at preventing as well as treating the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a close cousin of COVID-19
The advisory provides for placing the following high risk population under chemoprophylaxis with hydroxy chloroquine:
- Asymptomatic Healthcare Workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID
- Asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases
The protocol recommended by the National Task force also has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for restricted use in emergency situations.