10 Must-Dos For India With Lockdown Being Extended

10 Must-Dos For India With Lockdown Being Extended

Masks should be made compulsory for everyone moving out of their homes.

As the lockdown is extended – what is to be done now? 10 points based on recommendations by numerous experts on NDTV (this is merely a selection, many other recommendations could not be included in this note and will be added subsequently).

  1. For Medical Staff: Order massive amounts of protective equipment from within India and globally. Ensure this equipment reaches the doctors, nurses and hospital staff immediately.

  2. Patient Care and Hospital Capacity: Build capacity to accommodate lakhs and lakhs of hospital beds to cater to any sudden influx of coronavirus patients. Ensure private hospitals take in coronavirus patients. The government should subsidise all private hospitals for the cost of treating COVID-19 patients.

  3. Hospital Equipment and Medicine: Enlist 100 private companies (e.g. car manufacturers) to manufacture ventilators on an emergency basis with the guarantee that this equipment will be bought by the government. Ensure a stockpile of treatment medicines including Hydroxychloroquine. Pay special attention to developing possible treatments of coronavirus patients: plasma transfusion, monoclonal antibodies and more.

  4. Test Kits: Immediately buy several million FDA approved rapid test kits for coronavirus. These must include both types of testing methods.  A) Molecular test kits that check for the virus directly (using nasopharyngeal swabs) and if any person is positive, they should be quarantined at home or hospital depending on the severity of the symptoms. (B) Serological (antibody) tests (using a blood sample through a pinprick) to see if a person has already had the virus, is now immune, not infectious and can therefore return to work. It is essential to announce a government package to subsidise all private labs’ and hospitals’ costs of testing. Step up testing including random testing (many coronavirus infected people are asymptomatic) to isolate hotspots and individuals.

  5. For the Poorest and for Migrant Workers: Immediately announce a second package for the next 2 months, the main features of which should be a cash transfer of ₹1000 per week per person, use the 80 million tonnes of food grains to distribute free food immediately, ban all evictions for three months and supply food grains and pulses etc to gurdwaras, NGOs and other institutions that are directly feeding the poor. Make sure there are no bureaucratic checks and hurdles. This is an emergency – err on the side of generosity.

  6. Special Focus On This Harvest Season: Ensure agricultural labour can return to farms for the harvest; ensure social distancing for all aspects of the harvest season: cutting the crop, threshing, transporting the grain to government mandis and then to Food Corporation of India godowns; the government must allocate cash and must pay in full and not on credit; provide post-harvest assurance to migrant workers that there will be a weekly package for them till they can go home.

  7. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Announce a package to ensure they survive for the next three months – the package should provide SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) with funds to extend loans to small and medium enterprises. A ban on all evictions for three months. Ensure call centres and other service industries with international linkages keep functioning (to avoid a backlash after the crisis is over). 

  8. Large Businesses: These employ large numbers of workers and have massive connections with the rest of the economy including supply chains. To ensure these large firms don’t go under, the RBI must devise ways to prop up the corporate bond market. This would involve the RBI adapting new methods such as providing loans to insurance companies and well-run NBFCs and pushing them to buy corporate bonds.

  9. Lift the Lockdown in a Planned and Staggered Manner: Compulsory social distancing to continue; compulsory masks (even jugaad masks) for everyone moving out of their homes; focus on innovative ways to get transport moving again (planes, trains and buses permitted with only 1/3rd the normal passengers). Keep people over the age of 60 in lockdown.

  10. Conduct a Massive Global Reassurance and Image Management Exercise: To convince the international market that India will return to fiscal prudence in the medium term – and avoid any ratings downgrade or capital flight. Highlight the strengths of the Indian economy: $470 billion in forex reserves; current account surplus (especially now that oil prices are low); 80 million tonnes of food grains plus the new yield from the ongoing/approaching harvest.  Most forecasts point to India growth rate being positive – though only 2% GDP growth forecast – which will still possibly be the highest in the world. Also work with WHO and international bodies to push global cooperation and ensure that the richer nations do not grab and capture all the world’s medical and other resources.

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