The global number of Covid-19 related deaths have zoomed to 11201 and the number of patients is well above 267000. India has not, luckily, reported any new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, but at the same time, had the largest single day increase of patients yesterday (Graph 1). The spread of the novel coronavirus across India’s regions is undeniable and states have started announcing strict containment measures.
The South East Asian countries have looked down upon the threat of the COVID-19 until the massive increase in the cases in the region. With the high geographical proximity to China and the huge number of tourists and workers visiting the ASEAN countries, a united stand and response to the outbreak of the virus have been severely missing. Ignoring the the need of providing leadership and promoting cooperation at the time of extraordinary global challenges, the USA and China have immensely got involved in a serious tussle, leading to worsening of already damaged ties. The US has reported more than 300 deaths, and the toll is bound to increase as the virus takes hold across the states.
Thailand reported a rise of 89 cases on Saturday, the largest daily update in the country bringing the total up to 411. The new cases were linked to earlier infections from a boxing match, an entertainment complex and a religious gathering in neighbouring Malaysia. Colombia entered nationwide quarantine from Tuesday night. Cambodia's Ministry of Health announced in a press statement on Saturday that four more people were tested positive for Covid-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 51.
On 21 March, Italy’s tally of confirmed cases reached 47,021 with 4,032 deaths, exceeding the total number of deaths in China. The country imposed further restrictions on public life on Friday in an increasingly desperate effort to halt coronavirus infections after the death toll took a leap of 627 in a single day, by far the biggest 24-hour rise recorded anywhere.
Jordan started a nationwide curfew on Saturday, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of coronavirus. Jordan has also closed land and sea border crossings with Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Israel, and suspended all incoming and outgoing flights since Tuesday. The Philippines now has 262 coronavirus cases, after 32 new infections were confirmed. The death toll has also risen to 19. More than 57 million people in the island of Luzon, which includes the capital of Manila, were placed under lockdown this week to try to stop the spread of the virus.
The tally of infections has surpassed 1,000 in Japan, Australia and Canada. Singapore reported two coronavirus-related deaths, marking the city-state’s first fatalities from the infection. South Korea confirms 147 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, up from the previous day’s 87. South Korea has now recorded 8,799 cases. The death toll is 102. East Timor, located east of the Indonesian archipelago, confirmed its first case on Saturday.
Spain’s death toll surpasses 1,300 people with a 32% rise in deaths. The latest death toll is an increase from 1,002 on Friday, according to the country’s health ministry. The number of registered cases in the country rose to 24,926 on Saturday from 19,980 in the previous tally announced on Friday. Pakistan will suspend international flights for two weeks, the civil aviation authority has said. Cargo and diplomatic flights will be exempt. Pakistan has a total of 665 cases with three deaths as on 21 March. Vietnam said it would be suspending all inbound international flights, but did not give a timeframe. Vietnam’s coronavirus cases rose to 92 on Saturday, with no death, according to the Ministry of Health.
In the meantime, the comparative experience of three countries- Spain, Iran and Germany- with roughly the same number of patients has come under focus. While all three has more than 20000 patients, Spain has had 1,378 deaths (285 in the past 24 hours), Iran has 1,556 deaths (123 in the past 24 hours) but Germany has had just 84 deaths. What Germany is doing right needs to be studied for the benefit of other countries.
Indian states are deploying differing degrees of travel restrictions in place. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray ordered that all workplaces in Mumbai, and in the greater Mumbai Metropolitan Region as well as in Pune, Nagpur and Pimpri Chinchwad will remain closed till 31 March to rein in the spread of novel coronavirus. After the number of confirmed cases of the virus reaching over 50 in Maharashtra, about 800 individuals in Aurangabad district, have been quarantined mandatorily for next two weeks, out of which 58 have a travel history to abroad and 17 are foreign nationals. A 52-year-old man with a travel history to Sri Lanka along with six more confirmed new cases, increased the total confirmed cases in Gujarat to 13. Four new cases have been confirmed with the virus with one of them having a travel history to Mecca, in Karnataka taking the total cases to 18 in the state. Three more individuals including an army jawan were tested positive for Covid-19 in Ladakh.
In the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the next two weeks being the most crucial for the spread of this virus in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the people of the nation to self-isolate them on Sunday 22 march, from 7 AM to 9 PM, ( termed by him as “Janta Curfew”). Central Government has passed advisories to the effect that on 22 March autos and taxis will go off the road in the capital and there will be suspension of Metro Rail services as announced by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Also, no buses will be allowed to enter the capital from Haryana including Gurugram during the 14 hours. Punjab roadways have also barred running buses for the day. In order to adhere to the “Janta Curfew”, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, has also declared that no buses and metro shall run on the day in the State. The Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport has suspended all international flights for the next coming week.
Janata Curfew is likely a dry run for broader measures in the future, as the Ministry officials indicated during yesterday’s press conference. Reports indicate that states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa, Bihar, West Bengal , Mizoram, and Karnataka have deployed severe restrictions already. Given that we are seeing increased number of patients even when we are using very restrictive testing criteria, strong measures are needed to tackle the challenge. A shutdown of at least the major urban centres like Delhi is inevitable, if we want to use the small window of opportunity we have to slow the spread, identify the pockets of infection and suppress the virus.
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Oommen C. Kurian is Senior Fellow and Head of Health Initiative at ORF. He studies Indias health sector reforms within the broad context of the ...Read More +