Covid-19: What you need to know today
Coronavirus update: Day 2 of the 21-day lockdown India has enforced was smoother than Day 1, with people figuring out that most essential products and services will be available, governments doing their bit to address concerns and iron out kinks, and local police departments starting to believe that not everyone who is out on the streets is a rule-breaker.Updated: Mar 27, 2020 07:22 IST
Sixty-three, 79, 81, 75, 65, 70, and 88. That’s the number of new infections every day in India for the past six days.
It’s clear from the numbers that the number of Covid-19 infections in the country, while increasing steadily, are not even following a geometric progression.
That could mean one of two things: lack of widespread local testing is presenting an unclear (and inaccurate) picture of the extent of the pandemic’s spread in India; or containment measures have worked and the spread of the disease hasn’t entered Phase-3 (when there is community transmission) in India.
That containment is important was reinforced on Thursday with the release of research by the Imperial College, London, which showed that without any intervention by countries, seven billion people (almost the entire population of the world) would have been infected by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, with close to 40 million dying.
Coming back to India’s unique progression of numbers, no one can say for sure which one of the two factors is responsible for it – yet. Most of the new cases are those of people who don’t clear airport scanning (and subsequent testing confirms the infection), or contacts of those infected that have been identified through contact-tracing – like the doctor at a mohalla (neighbourhood) clinic in Delhi’s crowded Dilshad Garden area who tested positive after treating a woman who was subsequently confirmed to be suffering from Covid-19. His wife and child subsequently tested positive. Now, efforts are on to trace around 1,169 people whom he may have treated (or who visited the clinic around the same time).
As expected, Day 2 of the 21-day lockdown India has enforced was smoother than Day 1, with people figuring out that most essential products and services will be available, governments doing their bit to address concerns and iron out kinks, and local police departments starting to believe that not everyone who is out on the streets is a rule-breaker. Local governments also started dealing with the issue of migrant workers who have no work, place to stay, food, or way to get back home. Many are still walking home, but governments and non-profits have set up kitchens to feed them, and the police are no longer asking them to get off the roads.
Some of these people making their way back home can take cheer from the relief package announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday. Some will get cash in hand; many will get food. Sure, some of the cash is either just front-ending of an existing benefit (the cash transfer, which will benefit 86.9 million farmers, for instance) or will kick in only later (the increase in wages in the job guarantee scheme, for instance), but some of it also comes with no strings attached and, like the best cash transfers, will just magically appear in bank accounts of beneficiaries.
But more, much more is needed – including a relief and stimulus package aimed at individuals and businesses. The US and the UK are among countries that have announced these. In the case of the former, the package’s magnitude is around 10% of the country’s GDP. Which is understandable. Early in March, just around 200,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in the US; on Thursday, 3.3 million, the highest in at least 50 years, did.
Governments and central banks around the world are waking up to the economic fallout of Covid-19, and moving to address it, sometimes with tools that would have been considered unimaginable. India should do the same .
In the short term (at the least), everyone has to be a Keynesian.