February 2, 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all the people across the world. The first time that India saw itself under complete lockdown was on Wednesday, March 24, 2020, when India was struck by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a moment of surprise for people across the world and especially in India, as no one had ever anticipated that a tiny virus from the Chinese city of Wuhan could cause so much trouble. The first wave of Covid-19 saw the nation in a complete lockdown when just around 525 positive infections were detected across the nation. The lockdown has specifically impacted local businesses that must run on an offline medium – such as local eateries, restaurants, pubs, theatres, and small businesses. Many small-scale businesses had to completely shut down due to the pandemic, and some of them have still not been able to recover the losses till date. The onset of the pandemic has had a great impact on the Indian economy in numerous ways.
Now, with the onset of the third wave of the pandemic in 2021, which is still an ongoing issue, a third lockdown may not be the solution to curbing the spread of Covid, but rather would impact the lives of people more than ever. According to the ‘JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data’ and ‘Our World Data’, India stands at a total of 4.13 Cr Covid cases and 4.95 lakh deaths in the country. The highest number of cases have been detected in Maharashtra (77.1 lakh cases), followed by Kerala (59.8 lakh cases), Karnataka (37.9 lakh cases) and Tamil Nadu (33.3 lakh cases), data as of January 29, 2022. The number of cases is surging at a faster rate than ever before. With this increasing menace of the Covid virus along with the variants such as Omicron, the need for having a third lockdown surfaces, but in my opinion, a third lockdown at this point would not do good to the Indian economy. This is mainly because the lockdown affects various aspects of a person’s life, such as their mental state, emotional state, physical and mental well-being, and their work-life balance.
People are affected by the lockdown in more ways than one realises. Countries such as US, UK, France, and Italy have already witnessed a surge in daily Covid cases, due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the virus. In the outlook of the third wave of the pandemic, many states have imposed strict restrictions on people moving about in public places, rules for public transportation, night curfews and week-end lockdowns. Karnataka has imposed weekend lockdown on the people, for instance. I strongly believe that the lockdown-like impositions on people’s lives will have an adverse effect on the mental health of people and will lead to economic distress, by putting more burden on people of the lower middle class. WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has stated that Covid is here to stay, and so people must learn to live with the Covid virus, by adapting to the ‘new normal’, which is digitization and the transition of education, work, and other offline activities to the online sphere.
When asked if restrictions like ‘night curfew’ should be imposed, Dr Swaminathan said that asking people to stay indoors and keeping schools and colleges locked causes more damage to people than the pandemic itself. The need of the hour is to overcome ‘vaccine hesitancy’, a phenomenon prominent among people of the rural areas to a greater extent as compared to the urban areas, and to inspire and urge more and more people to get themselves vaccinated against the Covid virus. Lakhs of people are employed in restaurants, movie theatres, live shows and other local businesses, whose lives and main source of income would be seriously impacted by enforcing a third nation lockdown. Public Covid protocols such as social distancing in public transport, wearing masks and sanitizing of hands in public places must be enforced and strictly observed, to curb the spread of the virus. People who have tested positive for the Covid virus or the Omicron variant of the virus need to isolate themselves and prevent spreading the virus to other people around them, by alerting their followers on social media and friends and family members in real life, that the latter need to get themselves tested for the presence of the virus, so that this can enable everyone to be in a safer position.
Dr Swaminathan also gave a suggestion that spot antigen testing should be made mandatory for all members taking part in large public gatherings or indoor events. People at the receiving end of the lockdown, those who are affected the most are highly frustrated at the suggestion of having a third lockdown amid the third wave of infections in India. The film industry has largely been impacted due to the pandemic and their revenues will only be minimalized further, if the lockdown is imposed, as movie and web series, television series and shows would have to be released only via online OTT platforms, and this would not be able to fetch as much revenue to sustain these industries. Complete vaccination should be made mandatory for those attending weddings, as this will again ensure that the Covid cases are restricted and do not spread to a larger group of people.
Various studies have suggested that the Omicron variant is less deadly than some of the previous variants and states across India need to ramp up both testing and vaccination to curb the spread of the Omicron variant across the country. Just as prevention is better than cure, people need to be educated about getting themselves completely vaccinated at the earliest, as this will ensure better control of the virus and will help reduce the number of cases among the people, as the spread will be curtailed. As per the statistics from ‘Our World in Data’, a total of 166 Crore doses of Covid vaccine has been given in India, and 70.5 Crore of the population is fully vaccinated, which is only 51.1% of the total population of India (Data as of January 29, 2022). India still has a long way to go, when it comes to vaccinating its citizens – both adults and especially the younger population of India (below 18 age group). The government of India is giving ‘booster doses’, also called ‘precaution doses’ for the frontline workers and those over 60 with comorbid conditions. After the first and the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, India is now better equipped with dealing with the situation at hand, and a third lockdown is not going to be the best possible solution in this regard. In the end, along with testing people at large and ensuring vaccinations are being administered to the public, a coordinated private-public effort is extremely essential in curbing the virus, and in ensuring minimal number of cases of Covid-19 within the nation.