India began stepping up its efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus disease Covid-19 on Sunday, shutting down passenger trains, metros and interstate buses till the end of March and advising districts hit by the pandemic to close down everything but essential services.
Lockdown – the word is probably all over your social media feeds by now. Perhaps you’re feeling worried, or have friends or family who are. Don’t panic: we know you’re trying to understand what exactly is happening, and we’re here to help. Check out these Q&As.
WHERE IS THE LOCKDOWN HAPPENING?
Let’s break this down – there are three points to keep in mind.
First, there are now major curbs on passenger travel. Train services – that includes suburban lines, but not goods trains – have been suspended till March 31. So have metro services and inter-state buses.
Second, states have been asked to allow only essential services – more on that soon – to continue in 75 coronavirus-hit districts.
Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata all fall in that list. States can add districts if they feel they should.
Third, states are issuing their own lockdown orders. Nagaland is going into indefinite lockdown starting at midnight; it has ordered all but essential commercial establishments to shut down and ordered commercial passenger vehicles off the roads. Uttar Pradesh has placed 15 districts under lockdown between tomorrow and Wednesday. Delhi’s lockdown begins at dawn tomorrow and will continue till March 31. Like Nagaland, it is sealing its borders.
So scan the news regularly to find out what your local government requires you to do.
DOES THIS MEAN EVERYTHING IS SHUT?
Obviously, it isn’t possible to shut down emergency services and establishments like grocery stores, ATMs or pharmacies – people still need to run their households.
For example, according to a PTI report, Delhi is exempting these services: “Law and order and magisterial duty, police, health, fire, prisons, fair price shops, electricity, water, municipal services, print and electronic media, teller operations including ATMs, food items, groceries, general provision stores, take-away delivery in restaurants, petrol pumps, LPG cylinder agencies, e-commerce of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.”
ARE WE OVERREACTING?
Not at all.
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is highly infectious – infected people seem, on average, to pass it on to two or three other people.
Known as Sars-CoV-2 (“saars-kawv-two”), the virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced by coughing or breathing; these may be inhaled or ingested by a healthy person, or transferred by hand from contaminated surfaces to his (or her) eyes, nose or mouth.
There are also worries that infected people who don’t show symptoms of Covid-19 (or have mild symptoms) are transmitting the virus.
So, it’s important to aggressively practice what’s known as social distancing – essentially, keeping people away from each other to break the chain of spread. For example, if you have to meet someone, stay at least 1 metre away from him and don’t greet him with a hug or a handshake. Larger-scale measures include work-from-home arrangements, cancelling events that usually involve large gatherings and lockdowns.
Strategies like social distancing and basic hygience practices can help control the spread of Covid-19 in a way that prevents the health system from being overwhelmed.
Of course, lockdowns alone aren’t enough – as the World Health Organisation’s Mike Ryan recently said.
“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them,” he told the BBC.
“The danger right now with the lockdowns … if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”
The world is going through a difficult time, and it’s up to us to step and contribute to the fight against the new coronavirus.
Lockdowns are part of the solution, and we urge you to comply with orders – for your own good, and for the health of your family and community.
Stay safe. Take care.