WHO Chief Says Lockdown Alone Won’t Help. India May Have 1.3 Million Coronavirus Cases

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO

As the lockdown decision of PM Modi is expected to boomerang, the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) is increasing rapidly in India.

By Rakesh Raman

While many countries – including India – have blindly imposed lockdown with the hope to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that such measures in isolation will not be helpful.

The health body suggests that the governments must use the lockdown period to take all possible steps to weed out the virus from their communities.

“To slow the spread of COVID-19, many countries introduced ‘lockdown’ measures. But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics. We call on all countries to use this time to attack the coronavirus,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A hugely populated country like India must learn from the WHO warning. The prime minister (PM) of India Narendra Modi had abruptly imposed a 21-day lockdown in the entire country on the Tuesday night (March 24). But India does not have any plan to attack the coronavirus, as WHO has suggested.

The purpose of lockdown should be to isolate the infected people and give them full treatment in hospitals. But the crumbling healthcare infrastructure in India is not ready to handle coronavirus patients.

Since the doctors also lack proper resources such as masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), they themselves are at a higher risk of getting infected.

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A new report compiled by a study group of scientists cites World Bank data to reveal that the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in India is only 0.7 (or 70 beds for 100,000 patients), compared to 6.5 in France, 11.5 in South Korea, 4.2 in China, 3.4 in Italy, and 2.8 in the U.S. Moreover, India does not have sufficient intensive care unit (ICU) beds for critical coronavirus patients.

The scientists say that because of poor healthcare facilities in India, the local hospitals will not be able to handle the increasing number of coronavirus cases. Therefore, the thoughtless lockdown announced by PM Modi without any plan to kill the virus will exacerbate the already alarming situation.

The scientists warn in their report that despite the 3-week-long lockdown and curfew, India may have up to 13 lakh (1.3 million) cases of COVID-19 by mid-May. This number will be more than all the global coronavirus cases put together. At that stage, it will not be possible to stop the contagion and the lockdown exercise will go futile.

The recklessness with which PM Modi had imposed the lockdown is already visible, as most people – mostly poor – are stranded in cities and towns without having any food or water. As the public transport has been stopped, the poor migrant workers are not able to go to their native places.

Worse, the Modi government – which is already running with empty coffers – has not provided any financial relief to the workers who have lost their jobs because of the sudden curfew announced by Modi.

Although the government today announced a perfunctory “Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Scheme” to mainly address the concerns of poor, migrant workers, it is like a drop in the ocean. Poor people will get some wheat and rice in this scheme.

The Modi government is so insensitive that it is trying to compensate the poor who lost their livelihood with some grocery items. Since the naive Modi government has no supply chain management systems in place, many needy people will not be able to receive the succor.

As the lockdown decision of PM Modi is expected to boomerang, the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) is increasing rapidly in India. The government says that as on today (March 26), there are nearly 600 coronavirus cases. But these are unsubstantiated figures.

People argue when the government does not have proper hospitals and healthcare infrastructure to test the coronavirus cases, its data on patients and casualties cannot be correct.

In fact, the government is giving some random, off-the-cuff numbers about the disease. Actually, the number of coronavirus patients and deaths in India is far higher – probably in thousands – than what is being reported. And as the research report suggests, the number of infected cases will go over a million in a few weeks.

With coronavirus explosion, India is poised to become the epicenter of the pandemic. Thus, it will cause a health disaster for the entire world.

As the Modi government is not capable of handling any situation that requires professional competence, the global community including the UN, WHO, the U.S., and the European Union must intervene to guide Modi before coronavirus assumes catastrophic proportions.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications and research reports on different subjects.

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