As of late Sunday night, the number of Covid-19 positive cases in the country stood at 26,917, a little less than the double the 16,116 on April 19 evening, according to the data update on the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The number of cases a week previous to that date, too, was less than double the number of cases of a week previously (we’re talking of the numbers on April 12 and April 5 respectively here). This underlines that the doubling rate of cases has been broadly sustained for a couple of weeks now.
In fact, as per the latest estimates of the government, the doubling rate has actually widened to over 12 days — this is against the doubling rate of under 4 days before the nationwide lockdown was enforced in the third week of March. As the Prime Minister interacts with state Chief Ministers today (April 27), this number will be top of the mind as a decision is taken on the strategy after May 3, when the current lockdown is scheduled to end.
Also on their minds will be demands for wider relaxation after May 3 to restart the economy — this is not only something that state governments have been asking for, but also what several policy experts watching the situation have recommended.
The PM-CMs meeting will give broad indications of the future course of action, but the details may be announced later in the week — closer to the deadline, and after considering the latest epidemiological data.
Before announcing the details, the governments at the Centre and in the states are expected to prepare the strategy to minimize the expected fall in the doubling rate, in the event the current one-size-fits-all lockdown is decided to be lifted.
Though the widening of the doubling rate has bought the authorities some time to boost health infrastructure, large gaps remain in crucial health infrastructure requirements — isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilator beds, etc. — in different parts of the country. A new push to bridge this shortfall at various levels is likely to begin in this week, irrespective of the decision on the lockdown.
Any opening will be followed up with aggressive testing and tracing protocols to avoid the proliferation of new clusters. The silent work on expanding testing will continue through the week, even as authorities stretch themselves to contain outbreaks in some major urban centres.
This, in fact, is going to be a very challenging week for at least 13 major urban centres — Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Indore, Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Thane, Surat, Chennai, Bhopal, Agra, and Jodhpur — which, by the last district-wise case load statistics, accounted for more than half the cases in the country.
If you live in any of these cities, or elsewhere in Maharashtra, Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh, you will have to wait for state-specific guidance on the nature of the lockdown even after the broad decision is announced by the central government some time during the week.
Cheers, and stay safe.
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