Coronavirus cases in India spiking, yet curbs are eased

New Delhi: Even though India ranks seventh-worst hit by the pandemic, the country relaxed the lockdown when it perhaps needs one now more than ever.

According to India’s Health Ministry, India has reported 1,90,535 COVID-19 cases with 5,394 deaths. On the contrary, when the lockdown was announced on March 24, India had reported 519 cases and nine deaths.

During May, when the lockdown restrictions were eased to allow the interstate movement of migrants, the operation of passenger trains, and air travel, the cases increased from 35,365 on May 1.

Preparation for outbreak

The Health Ministry said that the lockdown period had been utilized to establish 930 dedicated COVID hospitals with 1,58,747 isolation beds, 20,355 ICU beds, and 69,076 oxygen-supported beds.

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The Ministry also said India’s testing capacity and production of protective gear has been ramped up.

Public health expert Dr. N Devadasan told BBC that the objective to put health systems in place to deal with COVID-19 has largely been met.

Gautam Menon, a professor and researcher on models of infectious diseases, said, “It’s certainly time to lift the lockdown, it’s hard to sustain a lockdown beyond a point—economically, socially, and psychologically.”

Lakhs of migrant workers, daily wage laborers, small businesses, farmers, etc., have suffered severely during the lockdown.

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had in April suggested to end the lockdown immediately. Fitch Ratings slashed India’s growth forecast for FY21 to a 30-year low of 2%, from 5.1% projected earlier.

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Dr. Devadasan told BBC, “I suspect we will keep finding more and more cases, but they will mostly be asymptomatic or will have mild symptoms.”

He added, “But we kept the migrant workers in cities and didn’t allow them to go home. Now, we are sending them back. We have facilitated transporting the virus from urban areas to rural areas.”

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