More than five lakh people are infected globally by the Covid19 and more than 15000 corona virus patients have died across the world including 16 in India due to the global spread of Corona Virus – Covid19 that originated from China. The virus is claiming its toll in Italy, Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, Hongkong, France, Canada, USA among other countries.
On March 27, the Reserve Bank of India announced key policy measures to counter economic slowdown and joined the fight against the corona virus.
Latest Update: The US on March 27, surpassed China in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. With 85,300 positive tests, now it has more infected patients than any other country in the world. But Covid-19-related fatalities in the US (1,295) so far have been way fewer than in China (3,292), Italy (8,215) and Spain (4,365).
In his half an hour speech to Nation on Corona Virus on March 24, 2020 at 8 PM, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi announced an unprecedented measure of complete lockdown across the country for 21 days to fight the Covid-19 pandemic by following the social distancing which is the only prevention to break the chain of spreading the virus. The measure is to be followed strictly and is much like the curfew except that essential services and supplies would continue to remain available.
Announcing the country wide Lockdown, PM Modi said "If situation is not controlled in 21 days, India could go 21 years behind.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement came at a time when the number of positive Covid-19 cases are increasing across the country.
According to the Prime Minister of India, the gravity of situation can be understood by the fact that even developed nations are struggling to control the spread of the novel coronavirus and if the situation got out of hand, India would have to pay an unimaginable price. PM Modi said "It took 67 days for one lakh people to test positive, it took only 11 days for this number to rise to two lakh, and, it took only four days for the number to rise to three lakh" .
Key Highlights of PM Speech on Lockdown
- The lockdown has been imposed for next 21 days, PM Modi said
- PM Modi said the next 21 days are extremely crucial for India's battle against Covid-19
- Irresponsible behaviour on the part of a few could cost the country heavily
- PM Modi reiterated the importance of social distancing during the time of the novel coronavirus pandemic and said that social distancing is not just for the patients of Covid-19, it applies even to the Prime Minister
- Nation to go under lockdown from midnight on March 24
- During the lockdown period, every state, every district, and every village will be under lockdown
- Forget going out of house for the next 21 days. PM said that 21 days is a long time but it is the only way by which India can win the battle against Covid-19
- India is at a crucial stage where steps taken right now will determine whether we can beat this chain of outbreak
Lockdown Not likely to Make Much Economic Impact
The 21 days lockdown may seem to be a bit longer period but as for economic activities, India will observe an effective lockdown of ten days as from March 25, 2020 to April 14, there are 11 holidays including Saturdays and Sundays as under:
- Three Sundays: March 29, April 5 & 12
- Three Saturdays: March 28, April 4 & 11
Five Bank Holidays:
- March 25 - Gudipadwa
- April 2 - Ramnavmi
- April 6 - Mahavir Jayanti
- April 10 - Good Friday
- April 14 – Dr B R Ambedkar Jayanti
Accordingly, Just 10 working days are to be sacrificed for the better and beautiful tomorrow for our Nation and for our Family
RBI Announces Policy Rate Cuts: Takes Measures to Counter Economic Slowdown
On March 27, 2020, The Reserve Bank of India joined the big fight with a host of measures aimed at minimising the damage from Covid-19. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das has announced a series of measures including policy rate cuts to bolster economy in the wake of covid-19 menace.
Sharing that large part of major global economies are likely to be heading toward recession, the RBI governor stated that economic recovery in 2020 would be slow. This comes hours after Moody's Investors Service cut its estimate of India's GDP growth during 2020 to 2.5 per cent from an earlier estimate of 5.3 per cent.
Following key policy announcements were made by the RBI Governor on March 27, 2020:
- A 75 basis points cut in repo rates was announced as a measure to counter the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the Repo rate stands at 4.40% as against 5.15% earlier
- The reverse repo rate has been cut by 90 basis points to 4 percent. According to RBI Governor this has been done to make it unattractive for banks to passively deposit funds with the RBI and instead lend it to the productive sectors
- CRR has been reduced by 100 bps to 3%, for 1 year to release 1.37 lakh crores
- Minimum daily CRR balance reduced from 90% - 80% till 30/06/2020
- 3.74 lakh crore liquidity injected
- Banks are allowed 3-month moratorium on all loans. According to RBI, “All commercial, regional, rural, NBFCs and small finance banks are being permitted to allow 3-month moratorium on payment of instalments in respect of all term loan EMIs outstanding on March 31." This is going to be a huge relief for all EMI payers, especially for those — such as the self-employed — whose income had become uncertain in the wake of the lockdown
- Interest on WC facilities to be deferred by 3 months. Such deferment not to be considered for NPA
- Total liquidity injection 3.4% of GDP
- Along with it, the Central government on March 26 announced the first instalment of a fiscal relief package, worth Rs 170,000 crore, to protect the weaker sections of the society from the economic fallout of Covid-19 in the country. Announcing the measures, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana will benefit migrant workers, rural poor and women.
Three-way liquidity injection
- Auction of targeted long term repo operations of 3-year tenor for total amount Rs 1,00,000 crore at floating rate. Will add this to liquidity in the market
- Reduction of CRR for all banks by 100 basis points will release Rs 1,37,000 crore across banking system
- Accommodation under Marginal Standing Facility to be increased from 2% from SLR to 3% with immediate effect till June 30. It will release Rs 1.37 lakh crore into the system. ..
Corona Virus a War
The RBI governor warned not to make mistake as it is a fight never seen before. Outlining the risks to Indian economy from coronavirus, he stressed upon the need to keep the credit flowing to the stressed areas of the economy.
Earlier Complete Lock down in 80 corona hit cities in 22 States was announced by India from March 23 to 31, 2020 to break the chain of further spread of Corona virus following the unprecedented success on one day ‘Janata Curfew’ observed on March 22, 2020. Now it has been extended across the nation for 21 days till April 14, 2020.
The global spread of Corona virus that originated from Wuhan city of China, has infected lakhs of people with thousands of them dead, across the world including China, Italy, Iran, USA, UK, Canada, Germany, North and South Korea, and many other countries including India.
Since no effective vaccine has been found so far to control the fatal contagious disease, that has claimed thousands of lives in China, Italy, Iran, USA, India and others, the only way out that has been found a bit effective is complete shut down or lock down of the virus hit area which can result in social distancing and will keep the people away from infection of Covid-19. This could help the country from entering next grave stage of getting community infection spread to the most dangerous level.
What is ‘Lock Down’?
- A lockdown is an emergency protocol that prevents people from leaving a given area. A full lockdown implies that you must stay where you are and not exit or enter a building or the given area.
- This scenario usually allows for essential supplies, grocery stores, pharmacies and banks to continue to serve the people. All non-essential activities remain shut for the entire period.
- India, at the moment, is not under complete lockdown. With this announcement the Corona Virus hit cities will be completely shut and borders will remain sealed.
- Severe travel restrictions have been imposed on some states, and public places have been shut.
- Train, intercity and interstate bus services have been suspended throughout the country
- Barring emergency services, all government departments, offices, factories, godowns, weekly markets, shops and business establishments will remain closed during the period.
- A high-level meeting between Union Cabinet Secretary and Chief Secretaries of the states was held in this regard.
- Chief Ministers of the states have announced the lock down cities in their states.
The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi earlier appealed to 1.3 billion people of India to observe voluntary self-imposed ‘Janata curfew’ from 7 AM to 9 PM on Sunday March 22, 2020 and asked them not to come out of their houses unless very much necessary to observe ‘social distancing’ with this lock down across the country.
Another appeal he made to the people, was to thank for the services rendered by doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff at the hospitals, police personnel, security forces, sweeping, garbage collecting and cleaning people, in helping and checking the spread of corona virus. For thanks giving, the prime minister requested the people to clap, chant, blow conch, bang and clatter plates, ‘Thali’ from 5PM to 5.05 PM. People responded in great number.
The appeal had the scientific reason as the corona virus spreads one to one and among the people within few seconds if the healthy person comes in contact with Covid-19 infected person. Another fact is that the Corona Virus remains alive for a few hours when it is transmitted. So, the social distancing can save millions who are isolated and don’t come in contact with infected persons for 14 hours from 7 AM to 9 PM.
Entire country observed the Lock Down and except a few stray cases entire population of the country remained in house and remained isolated for the full day. Millions of people across the country stayed indoors, streets wore a deserted look and bare number of vehicles were on the road on Sunday in an unprecedented shutdown on Modi's appeal for a 'Janata curfew' to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed over 14,000 lives worldwide.
The success of the experiment encouraged the Union and State Governments to extend this lock down for a longer period to wipe out the dreaded virus. As such, as of now a complete lock down has been announced across the country till April 14, 2020 WEF from 12 midnight on March 24, 2020.
Services Available during Lockdown
Defence, central armed police forces, treasury, public utilities (Including petroleum, CNG, LPG, PNG), disaster management, power generation and transmission units, post offices, National lnformatics Centre, and Early Warning Agencies will remain open.
List of Services & Supplies Exempted from Lockdown in All States
- Police, home guards, civil defence, fire and emergency services, disaster management, and prisons, District administration and Treasury, Electricity, water, sanitation, Municipal bodies, but only staff required for essential services like sanitation, personnel related to water supply etc.
- Hospitals and all related medical establishments, including their manufacturing and distribution units, both in public and private sector such as dispensaries, chemist and medical equipment shops.
- Laboratories, clinics. nursing homes, ambulance etc will continue to remain functional. The transportation for all medical personnel. nurses, para-medical staff, other hospital support services be permitted.
- Shops, including ration shops (under PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder.
- District authorities to encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize the movement of individuals outside their homes.
- Banks, insurance offices and ATMs.
- Print and electronic media, Telecommunications, Internet services, broadcasting and cable services.
IT and IT enabled Services only (for essential services) and, as far as possible, work from home.
- Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through E-commerce.
- Petrol pumps, LPG, Petroleum and gas retail and storage outlets.
Power generation, transmission and distribution units and services.
- Capital and debt market services as notified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
- Cold storage and warehousing services.
- Private security services
Manufacturing units of essential commodities.
- Production units, which require continuous process, after obtaining required permission from the State Government.
- Hotels, homestays, lodges and motels which are accommodating tourists and persons stranded due to lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew.
- Establishments earmarked for quarantine facilities.
What remains Locked during Lockdown Period
- Offices of the Government of India, its Autonomous/ Subordinate Offices and Public Corporations shall remain closed.
- Offices of the States Union Terrltory Governments, their Autonomous Bodies, Corporations, etc shall remain closed.
- Commercial and private establishments shall be closed down.
- All other establishments may work from home only.
- Industrial Establishments will remain closed.
- All transport services air, rail, roadways will remain suspended
- Hospitality Services to remain suspended
- All educational, training, research, coaching institutions etc. shall remain closed.
- All places of worship shall be closed for public. No religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception.
- All social/political/sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions/ gatherings shall be barred.
- In case of funerals, congregation of not more than twenty persons will be permitted
What happens in case you break the rules in the lockdown?
Anyone breaking the rules, could be taken into custody and can be punished with simple imprisonment for a term that may extend up to one month or with a fine which may extend to Rs 200, or with both.
Can you go to work during lockdown?
Unless you are the one associated to the essential/emergency services, you cannot go to work. Most major cities in the country have ordered private companies to let employees work from home. All offices will remain shut till the end of the lockdown period. The central and several state governments have announced relief packages for daily-wage earners and other temporary workers.
Lockdown to Help Checking the Spread of Corona Virus
Braking the Transmission
It is estimated that the one day ‘Janata Curfew’ on March 22, 2020 was a major step in breaking the transmission of corona virus. A clear picture of future lockdown, the day saw the streets across India’s cities as deserted since the citizens stayed indoors heeding Modi’s call for a 14-hour voluntary curfew. It has been rated a very successful part of the administration’s effort to curb the spread of the virus across the nation.
Further Spread to Stop Effectively
The further lockdown announced by the respective states after the high level meeting is an extension of the March 22 success. It is understood that it would check further spread of COVID-19 and will break the chain.
Consensus Among All
All the state governments and political parties have come together to fight the corona virus.
All Patients to be Tested
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare expanded the criteria of people who can be tested to include all patients with pneumonia symptoms or severe respiratory illnesses. Earlier, the bulk of India’s testing was aimed at individuals who have travelled internationally and their contacts.
Meeting the Challenge
Noting that there has been a big increase in cases recently, Lav Agarwal, the joint secretary in health ministry said in a briefing in New Delhi on Sunday March 22, “Our biggest challenge is how do we break this chain of transmission. States have been asked to ramp up their capacity to manage confirmed cases and build or earmark dedicated coronavirus hospitals.” The lockdown is a right step in this direction.
CAP on Testing Fee
Taking another step, the Indian Council for Medical Research issued guidelines for private labs to test for Covid-19. The ICMR also set a price cap of 4,500 rupees ($60) for the test.
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Will the Lockdown in India be ‘too slow’ to stop millions of infections?
India’s move to lockdown the world’s second-most populous country may not be enough to soften the impact of the coronavirus outbreak as thousands thronged train stations before services closed. These people risked carrying the infection to the nation’s villages.
Although growth in cases in India has so far been slow, by April 15 the country will be overwhelmed by infections, said Dr. T. Jacob John, the former head of the Indian Council for Medical Research’s Centre for Advanced Research in Virology, warning India’s epidemic could grow to be worse than in Italy or Iran. Italy’s cases reached 53,578, with 793 deaths on Saturday, 21.3.2020 alone, raising the total to 4,825 fatalities as hospitals overflow and health-care workers die.
According to Dr Jacob, “We are still two steps behind the virus -- ideally, this step should have been taken a week ago, that way we could’ve stopped the outbreak’s inward journey into heartland India.”
Most at risk from the country-wide shutdown are India’s informal workers, who comprise more than 80% of the workforce and are often denied job security and medical benefits. Mumbai alone has more than 8 million migrants from other areas of the country, according to the 2011 census, and an enforced lockdown risks robbing them of weeks of pay.
It is estimated that virus could spread to as much as 10% of India’s 1.3 billion population and of those, 8 million adults could be at risk of serious illness.
The lockdown risks worsening an economy that’s already set to grow at the slowest pace in 11 years. India’s rupee weakened to an all-time low last week and stocks slumped anew amid a global meltdown in risk assets.
India Declares ‘Notified Disaster’
Government of India as well as State governments are treating and monitoring the situation closely to control the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to treat Covid-19 as a "notified disaster". This will enable the states to spend a larger chunk of funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to fight the pandemic.