Indian business owners call for country lockdown despite impact on them

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to overwhelm India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces increasing pressure to enact a nationwide lockdown, despite the economic impact on businesses.

The situation is so intense that those calling for strict containment are the traders who know their businesses will be the most affected.

“Only if our health is good can we win. The lockdown will help everyone and the spread of the coronavirus will also decrease,” Aruna Ramjee, a florist, told The Associated Press.

Over the past month, nearly a dozen of India’s 28 federal states have announced certain restrictions, including stay-at-home orders, ground flights and a suspension of passenger service on the country’s vast rail system.

While experts blame the nationwide lockdown imposed last year for helping contain the virus for a while, the nationwide restrictions also caused the economy to contract 23% in the second quarter of the year. last.

Medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court justices are also calling for new national restrictions.

Passengers line up to register for the Covid-19 coronavirus test at an Amritsar train station on May 7, 2021. The Indian government faces calls to impose a nationwide lockdown as the pandemic continues to overwhelm the country.
Narinder NANU / AFP via Getty Images

For more Associated Press reporting, see below:

Indian TV stations have shown footage of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals awaiting admission as hospital beds and critical oxygen are scarce. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are treated in makeshift open-air clinics, with IV drops hanging from trees.

As deaths skyrocket, crematoriums and cemeteries have been inundated with bodies, and loved ones often wait hours to perform the last rites for loved ones.

The alarming image has caught the world’s attention, just as many developed countries are seeing vaccinations reduce infections and are starting to open up. The push from India served as warning to other countries with weak health systems – and also has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic since the country is a major producer of vaccines but has been forced to delay vaccine exports.

Infections have increased in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to assemble for religious holidays and political rallies. India reported a new daily record of 414,188 confirmed cases and 3,915 additional deaths on Friday. The official number of daily deaths has remained at over 3,000 over the past 10 days.

This brings the total to more than 21.4 million COVID-19 infections and more than 234,000 deaths. Experts say even these dramatic tolls are underestimates.

The government provided free wheat, rice and lentils to the poorest for nearly a year, along with small cash payments, while Modi also pledged an economic aid package of more than $ 260 billion. . But the lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, also stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who found themselves out of work and fled to villages, many of whom died en route.

Some who remember last year’s ordeal remain against a full lockdown.

“If I had to choose between dying of the virus and starving, I would choose the virus,” said Shyam Mishra, a construction worker who has previously been forced to change jobs and start selling vegetables when a lockdown has hit. was imposed on the capital, New Delhi.

Modi has so far left the responsibility of tackling the virus in this current wave to ill-equipped state governments and has been accused of doing too little. His government retorted that it was doing all it could, in the midst of a “one-time crisis in a century”.

In the midst of an oxygen shortage, the Supreme Court intervened. She ordered the federal government increase the supply of medical oxygen in New Delhi after 12 COVID-19 patients died last week after a hospital ran out of supplies for 80 minutes.

Three judges called on the government this week to impose a lockdown, including a ban on mass gatherings, in “the interest of public welfare.”

Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, in a letter to Modi on Friday, also called for a total lockdown and government support to feed the poor, warning that “the human cost will lead to many more tragic consequences for our country. people”.

As the world watches India with concern, some outside its borders have joined the calls. Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, has suggested that a complete shutdown in India may be needed for two to four weeks.

“As soon as the cases start to decrease, you can vaccinate more people and get ahead of the pandemic outbreak trajectory,” Fauci said in an interview with Indian news channel CNN News18 on Thursday.

Yet Modi’s policy of selected blockages is supported by some experts, including Vineeta Bal, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology. She said different states have different needs and local specifics must be taken into account for any policy to work.

In most cases, in places with good health infrastructure and expertise, localized restrictions at the state or even district level are a better way to curb the spread of infections, Bal said. . “Central locking will be simply inappropriate,” she said.

Srinath Reddy, chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private consultancy, acknowledged that the intensity of the pandemic was different in each state, but said a “coordinated nationwide strategy “was still necessary.

According to Reddy, decisions should be based on local conditions but should be closely coordinated, “like an orchestra playing the same score but with different instruments.”

Lockdown India COVID
Workers load oxygen cylinders onto a cart to be transported inside the COVID-19 wards of a government hospital in Jammu, India on Friday, May 7, 2021. Coronavirus cases reaching record highs, the First Indian Minister Narendra Modi is facing increased pressure to impose a severe national lockdown amid a debate over whether the restrictions imposed by individual states are sufficient.
Channi Anand / AP Photo


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