On March 22, after two deaths due to COVID-19 Coronavirus took the overall toll to seven, the Indian government announced an official lock-down of 75 districts across the country until March 31, 2020, according to The Economic Time of India.

This came after the Indian Prime Minister, on March 20, requested the citizens to self-quarantine themselves for a full day from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22, the BBC reported. It left the second-most populous country in the world, completely deserted. This one-day-curfew in hindsight seems to be a practice run for what the government had in store for the next week.

The decision of the lock-down was made in a meeting attended by chief and cabinet secretaries after the country witnessed the highest number of reported cases in a single day. It took the total number of positive cases to 396 (including foreign nationals), with Maharashtra state leading the count with 69.

Only essential services will function during this lock-down.

These will be in line with the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). The state governments may expand the list of essential services based on assessing the situation in their respective states. While public transport comes under the category of essential services, all train, bus and metro services have been suspended to reduce the spread of the global pandemic.

"In view of the need to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19, it was agreed that there was an urgent need to extend the restrictions on the movement of non-essential passenger transport, including interstate transport buses till March 31," a Union Home Ministry official said.

Global concerns

This has come in the midst of various governments announcing shut-down and lock-downs across regions depending on the severity of the situation.

It also depends on community cooperation to a large extent. A few highlights from around the world:

  • Italy recently surpassed China's death toll with a total of 5476 deaths in a record high of 651 deaths in the last 24 hours.
  • US now has the 3rd highest number of reported cases of coronavirus.
  • Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel has banned gatherings of more than 2 people in an attempt to stop the spread.

There are growing concerns around India's preparedness to test all symptomatic patients if the spread isn't controlled and people start getting the virus without an indication of how they were infected. To tackle this, 60 private testing facilities have registered to conduct coronavirus tests with a plan for more to register in the next few days.

Critical times ahead

The next few weeks are expected to be critical for India as it has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other countries in fighting COVID-19. While growth in confirmed cases has risen in the last week, serious preventive measures are being taken to contain the spread further. The government believes educating the citizens is key and has recently launched a Corona Helpdesk on WhatsApp that answers queries with the help of a chatbot via a helpline number.

The onset of the Indian summer may also be a blessing in disguise for the people of the country.