From Wednesday, 1.3 billion Indians were put in lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi came as the country dealt with 512 active cases and recorded nine deaths.
Half the world away, in the US, the number of cases neared 55,000 on Tuesday, the same day the country saw a spike in deaths with at least 163 people succumbing to the virus, which took the toll past 780. The World Health Organization (WHO) said New York, which recorded 26,000 cases and 270 deaths, had emerged the “epicentre” of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
President Donald Trump, during his daily press briefing Tuesday, said a national lockdown had never been under consideration and that he “would love to have the country opened up” by Easter, which falls on April 12. Trump clarified this timeline was his idea. “I thought it was a beautiful time. A beautiful timeline,” he told reporters.
On the other hand, PM Modi, who announced the 21-day lockdown in an address to the nation through a recorded message, said social distancing was the only way to break the chain of transmission. With folded hands, he appealed to everyone to adhere to his call.
India Coronavirus lockdown: Here’s how the country is observing the 21-day lockdown
“The next 21 days are of critical importance for us. As per health experts, a period of at least 21 days is extremely critical to break the infection chain of coronavirus. If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years. Stay inside your home, stay inside your home, and do just one thing — stay inside your home,” he said.
The lockdown came close on the heels of PM Modi’s ‘Janata Curfew’, a 14-hour lockdown observed last Sunday. In fact, during his address, he described the 21-day lockdown as “a few levels more than the Janata Curfew, and also stricter”.
Trump, meanwhile, has been criticised for failing to listen to health experts, and even at times giving out his own medical advice.
Please do not take medical advice from a man who looked directly at a solar eclipse.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 24, 2020
Trump Tuesday clearly stated that the pandemic was “a medical crisis, not a financial crisis”. Hours later, his administration and the Senate reached an agreement for a $2 trillion package — the biggest in history — for individuals and businesses.
In India, PM Modi has set up a “Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force” under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “to ensure all steps are taken to reduce economic difficulties and execute them effectively”.
Sitharaman’s first announcements Tuesday were a series of regulatory and compliance related relaxations for taxpayers, MSMEs, company directors and bank customers. However, she said an economic package would be presented “sooner than later”.
Both PM Modi and Trump have been criticised on the speed at which they took action to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. In India, opposition leaders targeted the government for keeping Parliament running despite locking down states. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had on February 12 urged the government to initiate steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. Over the past weeks, opposition parties have repeated urged the government to take measures to contain the virus.
Similarly, Trump’s initial response drew flak. Some of his first statements were: “it’s going to be fine”; “it’s going to disappear”; I’m not concerned at all; etc. On March 18, in a reversal, he told reporters: “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
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