Covid – 19 : How India’s rapid action prevented a colossal disaster

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 Graphic. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

Recently, the chair of U.K. think tank Chatham House, commended the “fast, aggressive” Chinese response to the coronavirus outbreak,suggesting western countries should follow suit. However he later added, “Thank God this didn’t start in somewhere like India, because there’s absolutely no way that the quality of Indian governance could move to react in the way that the Chinese have done”

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/thank-god-this-didnt-start-in-india-jim-oneill-praises-chinas-coronavirus-response.html?__source=twitter%7Cmain

The comments on India brought lot of outrage on social media platforms however this outrage is plausible or the British economist was true in his comments? Let’s have a look:

Evacuation Of Indian and Foreign Nationals:

India is the only country in the world to evacuate its citizens the most number of times (9 evacuations and counting). The Indian Air Force evacuated a total of 723 Indians, 37 foreign nationals from Wuhan. Evacuation of 119 Indians and 5 foreign nationals from Japan took place on 27th of February. IAF also evacuated 58 Indian pilgrims from Iran on the 10th of March. Hence in total, 900 Indians and 48 foreign nationals were evacuated. On 15th March, 218 Indians were evacuated from Italy and 234 Indians (131 students & 103 pilgrims) evacuated from Iran. Again on 16th March, 53 Indians were evacuated from Iran. Following Table sums up the total number of Indian and Foreign Nationals evacuated:

MEA has approved AirAsia flights for Indians stranded in Malaysia and flew out 405 Indians in special flights.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/india-evacuates-405-citizens-stranded-at-kuala-lumpur-airport-1657158-2020-03-18

Quarentine facilities by Indian Embassy at Iran

Indian Embassy in Iran has set up a wellness facility in Qom to undertake 24/7 supervision of infected Indian pilgrims. 225 Indians in Iran tested positive and one death is confirmed.

India has to date banned entry from 31 countries (EU, UK, Turkey, Afghanistan, Philippines & Malaysia), in addition to suspending all visas to India as well as visa-free travel facility for OCI cardholders. India announced to stop all commercial international aircrafts for 1 week from March 22nd.

India has suspended 18/37 Indo-Bangladesh, Indo-Nepal, Indo-Bhutan and Indo-Myanmar border crossings to curb passenger traffic from March 15 midnight and Ind-Pak border (Attari and Kartarpur) closed from March 16 midnight. All 18 land borders closed except the crossings below:

Are We prepared with Vaccines?

India became only the fifth country in the world to successfully isolate a strain of the novel coronavirus on 14th March, from a very small batch of positive cases- a remarkable feat in itself. A first step towards expediting the development of vaccines.

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/covid-19-india-becomes-5th-country-globally-to-isolate-virus-strain-11584102221498.html

62 functional VRDLs are capable of testing for COVID-19, with 9 more to be functional by the end of this week. This is an increase of 40% in a week, from only 51 VRDLs capable of testing on 13th March.

https://icmr.nic.in/sites/default/files/upload_documents/COVID_19_Testing_Laboratories.pdf

India announced the first and second confirmatory tests for the virus to be free (not free in every country). India’s current capacity is 8000 samples/day (testing only 500/day) which will expand to 10,890/day in 121 labs (not including private labs).

As of 19th March , ICMR has tested 13,316 samples from 12,426 individuals. No evidence of community transmission was found after results of 500 random samples tested negative. This means India is still in stage 2 of transmission and hasn’t entered stage 3.

Central and State Measures:

Countless measures were taken by BOTH Central and State governments to tackle COVID-19 the past week. On 17th Mar, 30 nodal officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above were drawn from various ministries to liaise, coordinate and help the States with respect to any assistance from the Central govt, ensuring seamless coordination. Names of officers for each state below:

Lt. Governor of J&K accorded sanction to rolling out the JK Health Scheme to provide free Universal Health Coverage of up to 5 lakhs/ family on 18th March. 1.25 residents of J&K to benefit. This move comes at a great time to help tackle the infections.

J&K banned the entry of foreign tourists on 17th March and Sikkim & Himachal Pradesh banned entry of domestic and foreign tourists as of 17th and 18th March respectively.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal-bans-entry-of-domestic-foreign-tourists-amid-coronavirus-threat-58038

The Govt. of Punjab announced the ban of all public transport (public buses, tempos, auto rickshaws, etc) from 21st March onwards. Maharashtra Cabinet decided to shut down all govt offices except essential services on 17th March.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/corona-outbreak-punjab-to-suspend-public-transport-from-friday-midnight/articleshow/74711951.cms

Kerala CM Vijayan has announced a 20,000 crore relief package to tackle the crisis. It includes 100 crore for free ration of rice, 2000 crore worth of loans for families, 1420 crore for social security pensions, 500 crore health package, etc. Keralites will get an extra month to clear their water and electricity bills too. He also announced that a string of 1000 low-cost food outlets to be opened by April.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/one-more-tests-positive-for-covid-19-in-kerala-govt-announces-rs-20000-crore-package-2543371.html

UP CM Adityanath has announced “the state govt. has decided to provide a set amount in the bank accounts of labourers so that their families don’t suffer from the side effects of COVID-19” on March 17th.

ALL educational institutions, gyms, museums, pools and theatres are closed from 16th Mar till 31st Mar. CBSE has released new guidelines for exam centres including 1 metre gap between students, making sure the class does not exceed 24 students, etc.

On 14th March, the Central govt declared the COVID-19 pandemic as “notified disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, enabling states to spend a larger part of funds from the SDRF. Kerala has announced to spend Rs 78.4 crore from the fund.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/coronavirus-sdrf-assistance-1655514-2020-03-14

As of 18th March, 26 states and UTs have closed ALL schools and 18 states have announced closure of ALL public places (educational institutions, parks, gyms, theatres, markets, malls, etc). Red= public places, pink= schools correction: Andhra should also be colored red

What about Religious Places?

Prominent Hindu temples from Karakoram to Kanyakumari have pragmatically announced their closure, including Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple, Mata Vaishno Devi yatra in J&K, Ganga Aarti in Varanasi for commoners, Jagannath Temple in Odisha, Tirupati in Andhra and Madurai Meenakshi temple in TN. Mumbai’s Haji Ali and Mahim Dargahs also announced its closure.
Precautionary Measures of Central & State Railways:

Central Railways cancelled 23 trains on 17th March and announced price hikes to Rs.50 to disincentivise travel. On 19th March, Tejas & Humsafar express also cancelled. Also, places of passenger contact at Indian railways are being sanitized regularly all over India, pictures in order: Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Global Partnerships to tackle Covid-19

On global level, India has emerged as a global leader to take charge of the COVID-19 crisis. PM Modi’s initiative to organize a G20 Extraordinary Leaders Summit through video conference has been accepted by Saudi Arabia (G20 chair) on Mar 18. AUS PM lauded PM Modi’s efforts to lead the task force .

PM Modi proposed an emergency fund in the SAARC conference, and India has pledged USD 10 million, which has operationalized as of 19th March. India announced that it is assembling a rapid response team of doctors along with testing kits to be placed on standby for the SAARC leader’s disposal if required.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/pm-proposed-saarc-emergency-fund-to-combat-covid-19-pandemic-operationalised-mea-2543299.html

Tackling Covid-19 by Janata’s support:

PM Modi announced the creation of ‘COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force’ during his nationwide address on 19th March under the FM. He assured a swift response to the dent on the economy by COVID-19, which is expected to be announced in the next few days.

He also announced the “Janta Curfew” on the 22nd of March to honour the brave Indians at the frontline of the war including medical staff, police, airline staff, government servants, transport operators, etc. This was lauded by people from all sides of government as a battle cry of unity in the country.

The  Indian High Commission Minister Vishwesh Negi told CNBC Wednesday that O’Neill’s comments were “ill-informed and irresponsible.” He adds, “The next sortie by the Indian Air Force aircraft to evacuate Indian national is expected in couple of days. An Indian medical team is already stationed in Qom, Iran to assist the local authorities in screening COVID-19 cases”. “The above points illustrate to a significant degree India’s pro-active efforts in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 which resultantly has put the actual number of cases within India to a minimal given the size of the population” Negi concluded.

The article is a compilation of our author’s tweet thread on Covid 19 outbreak

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