On Monday, the government sought to quell “rumours and reports" that the countrywide lockdown would be extended beyond 14 April—the day it is currently scheduled to end. But the prospect of an extension should not be ruled out, as such a decision must depend on whether the objectives of the current curbs are achieved over the next fortnight. The lives of citizens are at stake, and how the country fares in its battle against the covid-19 outbreak will critically depend on what happens next and our determination to keep Indians safe. If total infections after the first 100 are plotted along a daily timeline, some point out, India’s upward trend is not as steep as in Western countries. Moreover, if many of the migrants who tried to flee home over the past week are virus carriers, as widely feared, then a flare-up might be on its way. Individuals can be infective for more than a week before they show symptoms, so a large number of people randomly need to be tested for reliable calculations to be made. Our current approach, based on checking those traced to have come in contact with a virus carrier, will not suffice. A tragedy has befallen them, and their plight and risk of starvation—despite relief budgets and missions—have added to the pressure on the government to ease the strictures at the earliest. Not only has the economy suffered a sudden shock on account of these, we also face a scarcity of items people cannot do without. These are crises in themselves and threaten another kind of disaster, as the worst-case scenario of economic suffocation could rival that of a covid calamity.
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