A narrowing window
The extension of the lockdown should lead to precise plans for an orderly exit
- It appeared inevitable, and the Centre has accepted the view of several States to extend the national lockdown for the novel coronavirus until May 3.
- The decision provides comfort and continuity to those in charge of containing the pandemic, but it is a small window within which an orderly exit must be planned.
- Incentivising areas are to be allowed limited exemptions in activity after April 20, once they pass the ‘litmus test’ and are not at risk of becoming hotspots.
- The Centre’s lockdown is the most rigorous globally, but it has witnessed severe gaps in implementation.
- Active follow-up with State governments and clear instructions to enforcement agencies are necessary to help the public adhere to a curfew.
- Millions of workers are already dependent on meagre income substitution measures and food donations, and many face escalating private debt.
- The Finance Ministry’s welfare schemes need to be reviewed, and enhanced relief provided to all workers rendered unemployed through funds infusion and provision of food for at least six months.
- Those who have lost jobs, and senior citizens, should be able to enrol in the PDS online immediately.
A gradual reopening of activity after May 3, going beyond essential services will require classification of infection risk for various groups, such as school and college students, teachers, and workers. The reality of COVID-19 is that there cannot be a return to normal overnight, and governments must plan for a sequential restoration of activity. The effort should be to enable the workforce, ensuring its health and safety.