Here’s a low down on the lockdown6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
To lockdown or not to lockdown— that seems to be a pressing question!
In the times that we are living in, a lockdown may seem essential. But a lockdown needs preparation and thought, and Owliver is here to break it down for you.
Do you remember the end of March 2020?
The whole nation went under lockdown to curb the spread of the first wave of the pandemic. Schools, markets, parks, and offices were all closed but homes were abuzz with activity with everyone retrieving indoors. It was only during Unlock 5.0 that life began resembling our memory again.
For a disease that necessitates social distancing, staying home and limiting the chain had become imperative. But staying home is also a luxury, and a matter of privilege. And it is this inequality that raises a question mark around a nationwide lockdown to curb the scarier second wave of the virus.
Let’s walk through the different sides of the lockdown, where it is all sunshine, and also where it casts a shadow. But first, we will take a detour to understand privilege.
Privilege and Pandemic
Privilege refers to the means by which some people experience advantage over others based on skin colour, gender, race, religion, and more. At the outset, it seems wrong, and superfluous. But those who are privileged hardly ever notice discrimination because it is never directed at them. This is why awareness of privilege is necessary to speak up against any act that places one being over the other.
For example, education is a privilege because it is not available to all, as is access to good medical services and regular income with benefits.
Having a home is a privilege, too.
Close to 1.8 million people in India do not have homes. Many people also have to travel from their native homes to bigger cities looking for work. The last lockdown, that stopped all means of public transportation, took place on a four-hour notice, making it impossible for a major part of the population to go to their homes.
This problematises the question of the lockdown.
After that important detour, let’s hear the two sides of the lockdown debate—
What works in favour of lockdown?
In more ways than one, the second wave is more demanding of the medical infrastructure of the country. What does this mean? The mutant virus is effecting people of all age groups. Therefore, more oxygen cylinders, medicines, vaccines, and hospital beds are needed. India is suffering from a shortage at present. Also, the rise in the number of cases and the vaccination drive are not in a favourable relationship at present. Even America’s, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recommends that India should go on a nationwide lockdown. A nationwide lockdown might help the medical infrastructure to build itself up to cater for existing cases rather than struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing number of new cases.
Closing down everything like last year will force people to stay home, and will help in breaking the chain, and the spread of the virus.
What works against the lockdown?
The memory of the economic and the humanitarian crisis from last year is still fresh in our minds.
The humanitarian crisis of 2020: The case of the migrant labourers
Many migrant labourers in India had to deal with loss of income and shortage of food as their places of work (factories and warehouses) were shut down due to the lockdown. With no means of transportation, they started walking back to their villages, sometimes trying to cover distance over 100 kilometres on foot. The government and private organisations jumped in to help ease the despair of the labourers.
The economic crisis of 2020: Loss of jobs and income
The unemployment rate in India reached 23.5% in April last year.
Unemployment rate reflects the inability to provide jobs for people who are capable, and looking for work. Around 12.2 crore people in India lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 75% of them were small traders and wage labourers. Efforts by a willing population brought this rate down to 6.9% in early 2021 but the economic loss of last year has cast a shadow over new decisions about a lockdown.
The present scenario
In keeping with the rise, the Centre has asked states to impose customised lockdowns.
Districts with a positivity rate of more than 15% will be under lockdown.
Delhi has been under lockdown since April 19, and it will continue till May 10. Bihar has ordered a lockdown till May 15. Haryana is under lockdown till May 10. Puducherry is under lockdown till May 10. And there are many more.
How effective are night curfews and weekend lockdowns?
AIIMS Director, Doctor Randeep Guleria, states that a lockdown needs to be of a longer duration to cut transmission of the virus. Night curfews and weekend lockdowns do not serve the purpose of curbing the virus for they last merely between 12 hours to 48 hours.
The way forward…
If we learn from the past, and prepare better this time, a lockdown seems to be a reasonable way forward. But, keeping that in mind, we must be aware that moving forward must include the un-or-under privileged as well, so the humanitarian crisis of 2020 is not repeated again. If measures can be taken to safeguard the health, and well-being, of people across income levels, then a lockdown might be the remedy we need.
Till then, wear a mask, sanitise your hands, and maintain social distance.
Remember to remain grateful to our frontline workers, to do our bit in helping those around us who are suffering (know how through our new Covid guide), and to send out a wish that our beautiful world heals soon.