Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made an extraordinary decision by announcing 21 days nationwide lockdown in India from midnight of March 24th, as a preventive measure, to save country from the Covid19 outbreak. The decision might have been made, on the basis of the exponential rising trends of the deadly virus in other developed countries and projected theoretical data by the experts.
The decision is appreciated worldwide with the concerns of essential and emergency services to be extended to the countrymen, which PM Modi assured to be taken care. The duration of the lockdown, however, is question marked; as tweeted by the India’s top political strategist and data analyst Mr Prashant Kishor. In this article it is explained why longer period of lockdown is the need of the hour.
There are many others, came forward, to criticize the government for the limited available medical infrastructures and resources to fight with the Covid19. As per the data of world bank, number of hospital beds per 1000 people in India (2011) is only 0.7, compared to 11.5 in South Korea (2015), 6.5 in France (2013), 4.2 in China (2012), 3.4 in Italy (2012), 2.9 in the UK (2013), 2.8 in the USA (2013), and 1.5 in Iran (2014). None of the above countries could control the exponential rise of Covid19 outbreak, except South Korea.
As reported by the Vox, South Korea, has highest 3692 Covid19 tests facilities per million compared to that of other advanced countries like USA, Japan, UK, Israel, Italy and China having 23, 66, 347, 401, 826, and 2820 tests facilities per million respectively. Highest number of tests facility per capita has given advantage to S Korea in rapid tracing and strictly quarantine the positive cases. This is the major concern for the highly populated countries like India, having very limited tests facility per million people to trace the real numbers. Experts, in India, are worried because actual Covid19 positive cases are still not completely traced.
Hindustan Times (HT), India’s leading English newspaper, has published an article entitled “India may have 97k-1.3mn Covid-19 infections by mid-May, shows projection” on March 24th, 2020. The report predicts that India might end up with 97,000 to 1.3 million Corona virus disease (Covid-19) infections by mid-May. The projected data are really terrifying for the world’s second largest populated country. Also, it is difficult to put any question mark or doubt on the authenticity of the study because the report was prepared by the Crisis of Virus in India (COV-IND) study group. The 14-member group includes epidemiology and biostatistics experts from Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan, University of Connecticut and the Delhi School of Economics. This assessment is made using the data available till March 16th, 2020 when 119 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in India whereas 69k cases were confirmed world wide. Today, on March 26th, reported numbers in India and across the world are 657 (5.5 times) and 470,973 (6.82 times) respectively.
In India, 1st confirmed case was noticed on January 30th 2020 and 100th case on March 14th; nearly 45 days to reach first 100 cases. But, approximately, 3 days in 2nd 100 numbers, 2 days in 3rd, 1.5 days in 4th and 5th, and only one day in reaching 6th 100 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Now, the question arises, if India has this alarming theoretical projection based on the exponentially rising trends across the world, then what will be the strategies and preventive actions to control the numbers below the predicted bars in near future. Let us consider an interesting mathematical distribution “Flattening the Curve” concept, widely used for the theoretical predictions across the world.
The curve takes on different shapes, depending on the virus’s infection rate. If infection increases exponentially at a high rate, it would result into a steep curve. This will be the situation when the local health care systems will be tremendously overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. Such situation arises when less proactive and protective measures are taken to keep virus away from people. For example, higher person to person interaction, higher and multiple rate of transmission of virus in the community.
Once social distancing is strictly followed, the rate of transmission will be less, however, the duration of social distancing may extend. But the advantage of this situation is, due to less number of new cases on daily basis, the total number of cases are anticipated to remain under the ‘line of health care system capacity’ at any point of time. This will fetch time to increase health care infrastructures. Therefore, longer period of social distancing is recommended to flatten the curve.
USA, UK and most of the European countries have not followed the social distancing on time therefore they are trapped into high infection rate curve. Even though these countries have world class medical infrastructures, but due to a very high number of infected people, in a short span of time, it is becoming difficult to accommodate and provide proper medical treatment.
On the contrary, India has imposed lockdown right at time when the Covid19 outbreak was about to reach the number of 400 or so; from where other countries faced exponential increment as described in the article entitled “Why next two weeks are so critical for India?“. Strict lockdown will also help India to overcome from its limitation of having marginal medical infrastructure by keeping no. of cases below the line of health care capacity.
Furthermore, it is important to look into the Covid19 tests data. USA has carried out 7695 tests till March 11th and confirmed 1700 positive cases; 22% people are found infected. Italy carried out 49937 Covid19 tests till March 8th and found 10100 confirmed cases; 20% found infected. Similarly, Japan till March 4th reported 4% confirmed cases, UK, Israel, and S. Korea till March 8th, have reported 1%, 2% and 4% confirmed cases respectively. India, as reported by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) , have carried out a total number of 24254 Covid19 tests till March 25th and confirmed 581 cases; which is only 2%.
Now if we closely look on the Covid19 trends country by country as analysed and reported by John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times, it is clearly visible that the strict preventive measures taken by countries like Japan and South Korea, with below 5% infections, out of total Covid19 tests, are successfully able to flatten the curve. Therefore, India with 2% infection, out of total Covid19 tests, can also control the disaster by maintaining the strict and the prolong social distancing. The proactive step of 21 days lockdown by the Government of India will definitely be helpful in controlling and combat the Covid19 outbreak, but, at the cost of its economy. Densely populated countries, like Japan, with strong social norms where people are self disciplined and obedient enough to strictly follow the social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing etc, may not only save their life from Covid19 but also may save economy of country in this crisis.
At moment, we the people of India must have to have faith on Government agencies and Leadership. We must strictly follow the updated guidelines time to time. Let us collectively support our people and our government by regular hand washing, discipline of maintaining social distancing and other social responsibilities with utmost patience.
I wish Anticipation made in this article, based on the available data worldwide, will transmit Hope to Conquer the Covid19 in India through the readers.
- Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Jhons Hopkins University
- World Health Organization
- Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR)
- The World Bank
- Financial Times
- Hindustan Times