India has extended lockdown restrictions to June 30 in the “containment zones”. Government is, however, allowing restaurants, malls and religious buildings to reopen from June 8 onwards.The lockdown extension order has come as the country has reported a record number of daily new Covid-19 cases. With over 1.85 lakh Covid-19 cases, India has moved past Germany’s 1.83 lakh cases and climbed to eighth from the ninth spot in the list of 10 nations worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of total deaths linked to the highly contagious illness has crossed the 5,000-mark.
The US has so far reported the highest number of over 18 lakh Covid-19 cases. Brazil follows with over five lakh cases, and Russia with over four lakh cases.
But as the cases are registering a sharp spike, the union government has decided to reopen the hospitality and retail businesses, along with places of worship, but they must keep social distancing rules in place. Similarly, curbs have also been removed on movement of people and goods between states. Government has continued with the practice of night curfew, but timings have been changed to 9 pm-5am from the existing 7 pm-7am. The decision about reopening cinemas, schools and international flights will be taken after an assessment in the next few weeks.
The government is gradually moving towards re-opening the economy as it fears the economic fallout from stay-at-home measures will be worse than the virus. Indian economy like the economies elsewhere in the world has already gone into recession. In India, its impact has been devastating. Millions of people have lost jobs. Millions of migrant labourers have lost livelihood and shelter in the cities forcing them to go back to their homes in the villages. This has triggered a massive suffering in its wake. And it will only get worse if the economy is not reopened.
Government has thus done well to take steps towards resuming the economic activity. In the west too, the governments are similarly moving towards getting back to normal life. And this is happening even as the Covid-19 cases are spiking and the experts are warning of a second wave of infections. This is a serious apprehension. But the further damage to the economy will be a cure worse than the disease. More so in a country like India where a significant population lives below the poverty line. In the absence of jobs, people will die of hunger. Government is therefore doing well to unlock the economy. It should, however, make the businesses accountable for any laxity in implementing the norms of social distancing.
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