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Why India has opted for a China-style lockdown and not like the one in Italy

China implemented harshest form of lockdown in Wuhan after 30 deaths, while Italy effected gradual, less stringent nationwide lockdown that began after 800 deaths.

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New Delhi: India, in its fight against the coronavirus, has opted to enforce the harshest but among the most effective forms of nationwide lockdown. 

In one country after the other, lockdowns have emerged as the key response against the coronavirus pandemic. There are, however, significant differences between lockdowns across the countries, and these variations have an impact on a nation’s ability to contain the spread of Covid-19 and reduce fatalities. 

These lockdowns can be differentiated based on three key characteristics: time of enforcement, scale and scope, and for how long the lockdown remains in place. 

China, the epicenter of the coronavirus, implemented the harshest form of lockdown in Wuhan after nearly 30 deaths had occurred. In about two months, China has managed to bring down the number of daily new cases to single digits. 

In contrast, Italy — the new epicenter — implemented a gradual and less stringent nationwide lockdown that began only after 800 deaths. As a consequence, Italy is nowhere close to China when it comes to bringing the outbreak under control. 

Similar to China, India also implemented a full-scale lockdown, but at a much earlier stage of the outbreak — immediately after 10 deaths. 

Also read: Chinese factories are beginning to buzz again while rest of the world comes to a halt

Time of enforcement 

As mentioned above, there are three characteristics that show the difference between lockdowns — time of enforcement, scale and scope, and the duration.  

Time of enforcement is crucial because there is increasing evidence that the sooner a country imposes the lockdown, the lesser the number of deaths it is likely to witness.  

Data compiled by the Financial Times shows that China implemented its lockdown after 30 deaths, Italy after 800 deaths, UK after 335 deaths, Spain after 200 deaths, and France after 175 deaths. The analysis shows “death tolls growing more quickly in Italy and Spain than they did in China at the same stage of the outbreak”.  

Experts contend that developing countries such as India, which have limited healthcare capacities, should enforce a lockdown as early as possible. This would help minimise the loss of lives and not overburden healthcare systems. 

Also read: Remdesivir trials in Israel and Italy’s drop in cases — 5 global developments on Covid-19

Scope and scale of lockdown 

Lockdowns across countries have also varied at the level of stringency and the movement allowed within the region experiencing a lockdown. The key feature here is that some countries such as Spain and Italy gradually curtailed public life, while others such as India and China enforced a full-scale lockdown the moment they decided to enforce it.  

For instance, after the virus had already spread, the province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan went into a complete lockdown on 23 January. There was complete road and transportation closure, restricting all movement in the city, including that of private cars. All commercial activity was shut down. Most residents of Wuhan live in residential compounds and no one was allowed to visit them. Most of these compounds were being guarded by security guards who ensured no one left their homes.

People were allowed to leave only for buying grocery and medicines, which was also highly regulated. Only one member of the family could leave for grocery every other day, and was forced to wear a mask. And most residents were discouraged from leaving their homes and asked to get grocery delivered.  

The scope and scale of India’s lockdown is quite similar to that of China’s.  

In stark comparison, both Italy and Spain only gradually curtailed public life. Restrictions on what residents were allowed to do became stringent over time in both the countries.  

In Italy, the government first ordered a lockdown in only the north and then extended it to the south. Unlike China, the Italian government didn’t order a complete shutdown of transportation and commercial activity. Local travel was banned, except for “urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons”. Thus, although in reduced numbers, people continued to go to work for long periods.  

According to scholars of epidemiology, the fact that Italy didn’t enforce a stringent lockdown and chose to increase restrictions gradually, led to large-scale community transmission. 

Also read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy

Duration of lockdowns 

Another defining feature of lockdowns has been the duration for which they remain imposed. On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump sparked a controversy after he suggested that he may loosen the lockdown in America to restart the economy. This statement caused a lot of backlash, even from some of his core supporters. 

“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media,” tweeted Republican party lawmaker, Lindsey Graham, who is considered a staunch Trump supporter. “There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.”  

In China, the lockdown has remained in place for over two months now, and the government has only now begun to lift some of the restrictions on public life. Though some restrictions are being lifted in the Hubei province, its capital city Wuhan — the original epicentre — will continue to remain in lockdown until 8 April. At this stage, China is recording zero local infections.  

Experts advise countries such as India and other western countries dealing with an even harsher form of the epidemic to brace for long-lasting lockdowns.

Also read: Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus, is in isolation at home in Scotland



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  1. But the approach followed by South Korea is appreciable, I don’t know whether that approach could have been feasible to implement in India, considering the current technological aspects and digital infrastructure of India, but if it is feasible even in some selective States of India then it should be adopted instead of the total lockdown. Also Kerala has already implemented this approach.

  2. Those educated fools who oppose the lockdown, get your shitty @$$ out of our country. Come back if Modi loses in election. Stupid morons don’t even know to pronounce the spelling of this virus name, but want to write long essays about what government should do. Without using profanities, i guess these people need to mind their own bloody business and let government do what it is doing, which is absolutely correct. The country cannot be held hostage to prevent a few people from starving. Hotels have opened up everywhere, but dining facility is not there, it’s only take away. Those poor people whom you guys are defending should have saved money, than spending on booze. Now what’s the point in crying that no job, no money and shit. “Make hay when there sun shines”
    . They enjoyed each and every penny when they earned without giving a damn to savings, now they will understand the meaning of savings. If you ate concerned, then kindly sell your house, car and feed the poor. They will come eat and go, then again go booze party once the restrictions are taken off. Stop opening your mouth , when you don’t know any shit of what’s the main thing happening behind .

  3. Sir, it is a nice article which also debunked some theories especially WhatsApp forward theories.
    Thanks Srijan Shukla sir

  4. For a poor developing country like India it will be disastrous if action is delayed. Modiji took correct decision timely by complete lockdown at the same time he announced the packages and ration for the poorest.
    Hats off to our PM .
    Very soon We’ll control the spreading of virus. Pray for good health of our countrymen and world.

  5. I must say this… I’m sorry…

    A “21 days” lockdown might not be feasible for a country like India…

    Government’s inactivity and irresponsibility and negligence for initial response wouldn’t have created this mayhem…

    Government didn’t bother to initiate the screening at the airports initially….

    Conducted only some 17,000 test cases among 1.35 billion population…

    Modi asked people to clap hands and eventually the people, the Covidiots came to streets and started chanting Modi’s name started celebrating and started killing Covid19 viruses using hands and steel plates and now the number is soaring…

    It’s all over now and the people can’t afford it…

    It’s all began with Howdy Trump event… None did bother to listen to anyone nor did anyone care… Unfortunately, Modi government’s negligence at the time is solely responsible for the blood of the dead and the misery that Indians have to go through for the coming days…

    • I beg to differ very much Ruru. I am a healthcare professional and politically very neutral person. Not at all a Modi supporter but in this case I will not blame the government. Given our population there is only so much we can do. The tests need a certain amount of viral load to turn positive. If you are asymptomatic it may not show up on the tests. That’s the reason it was restricted to symptomatic persons only. Secondly all the educated individuals coming from abroad were asked to strictly quarantine themselves at home.. it’s a known fact that a majority did not follow instructions. It’s very easy to blame the Modi govt for everything….it’s time we talk in an unbiased manner and look at the ground realities of our health infrastructure. And Venkat the testing has extended to all symptomatic cases now. There is some science in all this. Remember even the most advanced countries are not prepared for pandemics. Don’t blame the govt. they for once both state and central have been quite active

    • This seemingly intelligent person does not understand the difference between quality and scale.
      COVID-19 testing kits are not available in the market – the world needs more than we can produce. In the moment of scarcity, those with need come first and not those who demand testing for fun. How would you know? Maybe you are used to buying things before the common man gets their hands on it.
      The same applies to ventilators – India has the best possible ventilators but their numbers are not sufficient. In Itlay, because the number of ventilators is less the doctors are choosing the patients based on their age. Imagine 30-year-old getting precedence over a 60-year-old person. Ever seen that in your life? If Mr. Modi had not done what he did you would possibly be hunting for a room and ventilator for a family member by now.
      Disclosure – I am an Indian living in the USA for the last 30 years and I respect and salute Mr. Modi’s decision.

  6. people should stop buying any thing, especially food products from street side, road side platform vendors, because they are the main sources of silent carriers of deadly corona virus; more so, they are prepared in unclean environment by totally unclean people and stored / delivered in unhygienic forms; street side vendors may apparently sell such food products ar marginally less price than others; but this shall not be an adequate reason to patronise streetside vendors; Surely, people should buy healthy foods, but not definitely from streetside platform vendors.

    Whichever model lockdown, ultimately only honest tax payers shall be made to bear the brunt;

    why lock down was warranted, one has to understand; countries brought their citizens from other infected countries blindly and allowed them in to the country which lead wide spread infection across the country and consequential wasteful expenditure followed by crippled economy, added expenditure in the form reliefs during and aftermath of lockdown.
    all consequences are of action/ inaction by a few of those who are supposed to be vigilant caretakers; actions are of a few persons; sufferers are the entire community; community shall not forgive or forget such erring errands.

    • In india we dont eat bats,snakes,pangolins,etc.

      Cut fruits and vegetables will be unhygienic and cause cholera,dysentery but not this kind of virus attack.

  7. …………………………………………………………………….Xi……………………………………………………………………………………….

  8. China implemented a lockdown only in Hubei province where Wuhan is located, and not in the entire country. That’s probably because they have a much better equipped public health system than India. We should use the lockdown in India to plan things better and rapidly extend testing facilities down to the last Primary Health Centre, and see if the lockdown restrictions can be eased at the earliest so that we can establish better control over disease transmission and at the same time help the large numbers of people who depend upon daily wages and the informal economy, not to mention farmers and agricultural labour, to recover their sources of livelihood.

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