Faltering Fight

WITH daily positive cases crossing 80,000, India is on course to become the world's new Coronavirus capital. The total number of cases have already gone past 36 lakh and the number of deaths is over 60,000. At this rate of growth, India is soon going to overtake Brazil and subsequently even the US. India is already ahead of Mexico in terms of Covid-19 deaths worldwide. The virus has only just made inroads into the vast countryside after overrunning the major cities. And if it does take root in the villages, it will wreak havoc and start a second wave of infection in the country. Already, unlike Brazil and the US, India has yet to witness any reduction in the number of daily cases.

At the same time, if we compare the size of population of India with that of Brazil and the US, then the record growth of India's cases is still not a reason for alarm. India's population is almost thrice the combined population of Brazil and the US and much more densely scattered. But India can hardly afford to let the contagion spread as it can lead to skyrocketing of the number of cases. And this, in turn, can overwhelm the already depleted economy.

As per provisional estimates released by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation  on Monday India’s Gross Domestic Product  for the April-June quarter  slipped by a sharp 23.9 per cent, owing to a strict nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus.  Last year, the GDP had expanded by 5.2 per cent in the comparable quarter.

The government can thus hardly afford to go for yet another lockdown. At the same time, it can't afford to let its guard down as far as the strict implementation of the measures to prevent the Covid-19 from spreading deeper into the society. It is  a tightrope walk for the government. It has far fewer options as far as enforcing strict measures to arrest the spread of Covid-19. And it has also little fiscal space to pump more money into the economy to help resuscitate it. So, it is unlikely that the economy will get back on track anytime soon.

This means that the lakhs of jobs that have been lost will not be created in near future. For that to happen, the economy will have to kickstart again. And this, in turn, will not be possible on a sustainable basis until the vaccine is developed. This would mean probably a wait of three to six more months. Government will need to display some ingenuity to keep the number of new Covid-19 cases at a manageable level. And what's more important, ensure that the economy is not halted further.

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