Chaos and hunger amid India coronavirus lockdown

As countries globally began enforcing strict lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, India, the world’s second most populous country, followed suit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the virus spread that has now killed 17 Indians and infected more than 700 others.

The South Asian nation reported its first coronavirus case on January 30 but in recent weeks the number of infections has climbed rapidly, worrying public health experts who say the government should have acted sooner.

The South Asian nation reported its first coronavirus case on January 30 but in recent weeks the number of infections has climbed rapidly, worrying public health experts who say the government should have acted sooner.

Government defends lockdown
But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sundhanshu Mittal said India was one of few countries to have acted swiftly and decisively to contain the outbreak.

“You can’t have knee-jerk reactions to such catastrophes without evaluating and anticipating the scale of the problem and looking at the international domain knowledge and consensus. A lot of administrative decisions were made,” he said.

India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry claims the rate of increase in infections has stabilised. “While the numbers of COVID-19 cases are increasing, the rate at which they are increasing appears to be relatively stabilising. However, this is only the initial trend,” a spokesperson said.

According to the latest report by the country’s top medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 27,688 coronavirus tests had been carried out by 9am on Friday.

“A total of 691 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases,” read the ICMR update. On Thursday, India witnessed the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases of 88 people.

While the numbers do not paint a grim picture compared to other countries that are finding it difficult to contain the virus, concern is growing among healthcare experts who believe that the number of infections could be far higher than what is being reported.

Academics from three American universities and the Delhi School of Economics in a report based on current trends and demographics have claimed that India could experience as many as 1.3 million coronavirus infections by mid-May.

“By April 2 we will run out ventilators and by April 7, we will run out of beds if current capacity is maintained and not expanded,” Gee told Al Jazeera.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards imposed several social distancing measures on Sunday, including a stay-at-home order, which requires most residents to limit their movements beyond essential needs such as buying groceries and going to medical appointments until at least April 12.

“Now, more than ever, we need the people of Louisiana to stay home, stop the spread and save lives,” Edwards said in a tweet at the time.

“There simply are not enough healthcare resources to care for all those who will need care if we continue to develop cases at our current pace,” Edwards said during a news conference on Thursday.

“It’s not conjecture, this isn’t some flimsy theory, this isn’t a scare tactic,” he said. “This is what’s going to happen.”

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