In the context of COVID-2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s next address to the nation is on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 at 10:00 AM. As we await what he would announce next, it is pertinent to look back at actions till now.
When did India first react to the threat? The first steps were taken by India on 17th January 2020, ahead of almost every other country, as passenger screening at airports across India of passengers coming in from China had started, the first step to dealing with an impending crisis.
By 30 January 2020, India had already issued travel advisories, asking its citizens to avoid traveling to China. This in fact was even before the first case turned up in India, and should be seen in light of the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese lobby active there were arguing against it at that time.
While several advisories, evacuation of citizens and the ramping up of capacity to deal with COVID-19 were being undertaken at war footing, the government decided to issue a national lock down. Again, it is important to note that the lockdown took place when there were just 562 reported cases across India. In contrast, the other countries decided on lockdowns when the number of reported cases had started to skyrocket. This one step has been instrumental in containing the threat of the massive community outbreak of the disease, preventing the overburden of the Indian healthcare system and buying us time to ramp up on medical infrastructure.
Data Speaks for Itself – Outbreak Containment Strategies Have Had a Positive Impact
How can one say that the outbreak has been contained? Just a cursory look at the graph below, which plots the growth rate of cases once the 100 mark is crossed reveals a lot. One can clearly see that there has been a decline in the rate of growth post 25 March, the day of the lockdown till 31 March 2020. This date is significant, since the spike arising thereafter has been directly traced back to the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz incident. However, the government has gotten a grip on it since, demonstrated in the decline seen again from 6 April 2020 in the growth rate.
Splicing the data of COVID-19 cases growth rates, one observes four distinct phases:
- Growth rate increasing after 15th March
- Growth rate beginning to decline after 25th March
- Setback due to the Tablighi Jamaat incident – growth rate starts trending upwards from 31st March
- Growth rate again starting to decline from 6th April.
Doubling of Cases Has Been Slowed – Effect of Lockdown
With pre-emptive actions undertaken in a timely manner, the Narendra Modi government has ensured that the rate of doubling of COVID-19 cases in India has remained on the lower side as compared to some of the other countries. Till the point of reaching 8,000 cases in India, the number of days taken for cases to double have broadly been the highest when compared to the countries badly affected by COVID-19, like the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Iran, France, Germany and Spain and Canada to name a few. This happened despite the setback arising from the Tablighi Jamaat incident, which resulted in a massive spike in case numbers for India. Even up to the 9,000 case mark, the same observations hold true, underscoring the effectiveness of the containment strategies adopted by India.
Number of Deaths Kept Low; Testing In Sync With Situation
Total cases and total deaths per million population due to COVID-19 have in fact been very low. As per the site Our World in Data, the number for India stands at 0.2, which when compared to what the number reported for USA (62) or South Korea (4) show how the government has been effective in saving lives too
Further, questions on testing are unnecessary hair splitting for the simple reason that India is testing as per the Stage 2 situation, whereby testing is to be done for symptomatic and contact tracing. In countries like the USA testing is being undertaken keeping in mind the community spread that has already happened. Despite the differences, one must note that the Indian positive rate is 4.2% per 100 tests, much lower than other countries which are near 20%.
Thus, it makes sense to appreciate the efforts of the Narendra Modi government in controlling the spread of COVID-19 despite the threat it posed. The government has been extremely pro-active and ahead of the curve as this stringency index validates. Further, set-backs by obdurate groups like #TabligiJamaat did harm the cause; even then, growth rate of new cases trending down since 6th April.
The handling of #COVID2019 has shown PM Modi at his very best. While almost every other country has floundered, or has had to reverse initial policy, India has consistently been on the curve. The strategy has worked so far. Let us await the next phase. जान भी, जहान भी