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India does well against coronavirus but lockdown is over the top

India does well against coronavirus but lockdown is over the top

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

While so far India has done very well to contain the coronavirus, the decision to impose a 21-day lockdown appears to be a case of gross overreaction. Especially against the backdrop of the failure of the coronavirus to spread in India. This happened because, right from the beginning, the Narendra Modi government was extremely alert and cautious.

Let’s consider facts first, which give the lie to the scaremongering. India prohibited the boarding of passengers from China on an e-visa on February 4. At that time, most of the world took the novel coronavirus lightly. On January 14, for instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) tweeted, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel <a class="_58cn" href="https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/coronavirus?source=feed_text&amp;epa=HASHTAG&amp;__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAlbOqS1KbUpvQaMK8fV7MryBuBRQiyMNhRznLV8uBK7Ag6h4SB-AGvDIiHdwbS1r1QSb7LCZD2It-fuS4HSB7ALWN3a_qAi-Uac4XY-_JejaE_S10Y6GmMk6z1ikSFyN_m57WzVNPP7Zq4QUPzsa-d8Xxnx-IuX3YSuNPhTolN3N_yRDUfImrrJO1YasH9mRw0ZvFHTqh-98viPlZAhZC67wC1bnNWdgEDMvD5f0wKPwvx7cL__u5SOOpKiztx3w1SF0wwx6NSdNrTRh3UhF3fR5QE_f7IVLm4i0o2Iy2l6Kc1Gm7nicgxzEbi7hgkW_8y1jdserjPjNuEIelsQDs&amp;__tn__=%2ANK-R" data-ft="{&quot;type&quot;:104,&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;*N&quot;}"><span class="_5afx"><span class="_58cl _5afz" aria-label="hashtag">#</span><span class="_58cm">coronavirus</span></span></a> (2019-nCoV) identified in <a class="_58cn" href="https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/wuhan?source=feed_text&amp;epa=HASHTAG&amp;__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAlbOqS1KbUpvQaMK8fV7MryBuBRQiyMNhRznLV8uBK7Ag6h4SB-AGvDIiHdwbS1r1QSb7LCZD2It-fuS4HSB7ALWN3a_qAi-Uac4XY-_JejaE_S10Y6GmMk6z1ikSFyN_m57WzVNPP7Zq4QUPzsa-d8Xxnx-IuX3YSuNPhTolN3N_yRDUfImrrJO1YasH9mRw0ZvFHTqh-98viPlZAhZC67wC1bnNWdgEDMvD5f0wKPwvx7cL__u5SOOpKiztx3w1SF0wwx6NSdNrTRh3UhF3fR5QE_f7IVLm4i0o2Iy2l6Kc1Gm7nicgxzEbi7hgkW_8y1jdserjPjNuEIelsQDs&amp;__tn__=%2ANK-R" data-ft="{&quot;type&quot;:104,&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;*N&quot;}"><span class="_5afx"><span class="_58cl _5afz" aria-label="hashtag">#</span><span class="_58cm">Wuhan</span></span></a>, <a class="_58cn" href="https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/china?source=feed_text&amp;epa=HASHTAG&amp;__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAlbOqS1KbUpvQaMK8fV7MryBuBRQiyMNhRznLV8uBK7Ag6h4SB-AGvDIiHdwbS1r1QSb7LCZD2It-fuS4HSB7ALWN3a_qAi-Uac4XY-_JejaE_S10Y6GmMk6z1ikSFyN_m57WzVNPP7Zq4QUPzsa-d8Xxnx-IuX3YSuNPhTolN3N_yRDUfImrrJO1YasH9mRw0ZvFHTqh-98viPlZAhZC67wC1bnNWdgEDMvD5f0wKPwvx7cL__u5SOOpKiztx3w1SF0wwx6NSdNrTRh3UhF3fR5QE_f7IVLm4i0o2Iy2l6Kc1Gm7nicgxzEbi7hgkW_8y1jdserjPjNuEIelsQDs&amp;__tn__=%2ANK-R" data-ft="{&quot;type&quot;:104,&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;*N&quot;}"><span class="_5afx"><span class="_58cl _5afz" aria-label="hashtag">#</span><span class="_58cm">China</span></span></a>.” Evidently, the WHO had swallowed China’s version of the pandemic hook, line, and sinker, a folly for which the world is paying dearly.

The first COVID-19 case was detected in our country on January 30, a day before in Italy and the US, and almost three weeks before in Iran. At the time of writing these lines, Italy reported over 69,176 cases and 6,820 fatalities. In the US, there are more than 52,000 infections and over 700 deaths. The corresponding numbers for Iran are 23,049 and 1,812. Compare these figures with 562 infected and 11 dead in India.

What these numbers suggest is simple: the coronavirus has failed to spread in India. One reason is that the government has taken enough precautions like banning flights from China, a massive information drive, and promoting sanitization measures.

In an article in The Indian Express (March 13, <a href="https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Findianexpress.com%2Farticle%2Fopinion%2Fcolumns%2Fno-apocalypse-now-coronavirus-pandemic-who-6311553%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1hDH6QH-RHQ_aaoMMfTpYQnGpKP6NsLsLkAns4fz5JiGiGCawaYcXN5-s&amp;h=AT32ZUrHdBdlqRPEBdwEkYe2Zyf1e72x5rvhdq4vpbNm3w-gUBWQgm1yASqunB4J279D_KeJRMaAn6ggQG1eRXiOS0Fs_pOvQp4h0–yf3bgoxSTGWK-8p0Vs8RkZuScE7zTmj5u5Jlkj-4b2myaG27-Iww7_lMGFxwDhcNIFUsZe9NUP7CkfnOaE32gogLOFO2e5OziHFcpMIB_gBTukzQyoxpeYM1S3bJa4k2lFypfhABSx8ff7zsEz1gu0T1vQilxzFikJ7j7mRSyaCxaEOgAqtnzOTQxYgCbJWHMJ2NkvFDQqstMKQdc-9I59A-Y2jpepPsPZ1UBY-0SWjnttCxaaIUNmPEfy4uB9iyjLiJuIsrQhdrBQnK6X5DO6jLuyk47jI3cZdDPXf9lvB0OFWLcJVPNPuWsE-m7Gt6dmIq5HEEv_4tZyaJEYEACUyxq09tudbn7UcJSEHMaYbQFaOyOnjpE8WfxPGWrvTMFJAA3ruabJ_7XJEiClQcPYZp7bu64M64ygRM112GIivaXvHc9ksytpubgkfend-gUUV3_sJc-72UXOLuIm8zTG0PPwVg9l3jRlz7LLpIEYeurR6K90_uTL5D-r_1pT_k_6nHhZHeIeXXeULyXva5OpZo" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow noreferrer" data-ft="{&quot;tn&quot;:&quot;-U&quot;}" data-lynx-mode="async">https://indianexpress.com/…/no-apocalypse-now-coronavirus-…/</a>), Shah Alam Khan, professor of orthopedics, AIIMS, New Delhi, hinted that “demographic patterns and the extant immune status of the population probably played an important role” in reducing the severity of flus in India in the past.

He wrote, “In a World Health Bulletin published in 1959, I.G.K. Menon wrote that even at the peak of the Asian Flu pandemic of 1957, 4,451,785 cases of influenza were reported in India (in a population of 360 million at the time) with a case fatality rate of 242 deaths every million cases. The pandemic saw a total of just 1,098 deaths in the country. These figures are low when compared to the fatality of the pandemic in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and China.”

Similarly, “the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) affected nearly 61 million people in the US. It caused 12,469 deaths in the US and 575,400 deaths worldwide. On the other hand, India reported 33,761 cases and 2,035 deaths from swine flu.”

The senior AIIMS doctor came up with sane counsel: “to believe that we are facing an apocalypse and react accordingly is sheer madness. Yes, we must not lower our guard but we must also not fall prey to propaganda.”

Unfortunately, important political leaders and unimportant but wannabe medical experts have muddied the waters badly. Senior Congress leader and former home minister P. Chidambaram on March 19 tweeted, “After WHO Director General’s statement yesterday, there should be no hesitation in ordering an immediate lockdown of all our towns and cities for 2-4 weeks.”

Then there is a guy called Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics &amp; Policy (CDDEP) and lecturer at Princeton University. In a number of interviews, he did exactly what AIIMS’ Dr Khan cautioned against. In the worst-case scenario, Dr Laxminarayan claimed that six out of 10 Indians could get infected—that is, 60-70 crore people. It looks like ‘Dr’ Laxminarayan is not a medical doctor but PhD, for neither the CDDEP nor Princeton mention about his medical degree, if he has one.

Unfortunately, Laxminarayan is not alone in selling a doom’s day scenario; even real medical doctors have been favoring a complete lockdown. They seem to be oblivious of the successive failures of flu viruses to harm Indians in a huge manner—in the past and at present.

Unfortunately, the government seems to have accepted the version of apocalypse peddlers..