Kolkata Taxis remain parked amid the 21-day nation-wide lockdown | Representational image | PTI
Kolkata Taxis remain parked amid the 21-day nation-wide lockdown | Representational image | PTI
Text Size:

India has launched what by any standard is the most draconian and complete nation-wide lockdown of any country affected by novel Coronavirus or Covid-19. This is unusual for several reasons. First, reported infections in India as of March 27, 2020 are 747 out of a total population of 1.3 billion. Of these, 20 have died, and 66 have recovered. What is more, of all the active cases, each and every one of them has shown only mild symptoms. By any metric, India has a far less serious COVID-19 crisis than many advanced and emerging countries.

It has been suggested, including by me, that the low reported infection rate might reflect a very low testing rate in India. So far, India has tested a little more than 27,000 samples or a testing rate of about 20 per million. Compare this to testing rates of more than 6000 in South Korea and more than 600 in Spain.

It is theoretically possible therefore that the infection rate in India is much higher; but if this is true, then it raises another puzzle, why isn’t an already ill prepared public health system overwhelmed with people showing up with COVID-19 like symptoms? Why aren’t thousands of people on ventilators? Given India’s large elderly population and many a kind of respiratory problems due to pollution and other reasons, why aren’t thousands of people on ventilators and in overcrowded hospitals? If any of this has happened, it’s a well-guarded secret. This might just be possible in a totalitarian state like China but it’s impossible in open and democratic India. Despite its well-known flaws, Indian media, to say nothing of foreign media in India, would have jumped on such a story of alleged cover up.

The other noteworthy feature of the Indian situation is a very low fatality rate when computed as a percentage of all reported cases, as low as 2.6 percent. Contrast this with fatality rates as staggeringly high as 10 percent in Italy and in the US of 1.5 percent, just a little lower than India. Apart from outliers such as Italy, most countries have fatality rates around 1-2 percent give or take.


Also read: India didn’t create Covid-19 problem, but a better system would’ve helped us cope better


On the face of it, the Indian data suggest no reason for panic, especially given India’s early and aggressive action in closing international borders to travellers from affected regions — much before such action was undertaken in places like the US and Europe. The panic in India and elsewhere emanates from statistical and epidemiological models which predict massive fatality rates if draconian action is not taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. It turns out that these models are very likely wrong and have overstated the probable number of deaths from the virus.

Especially egregious is a recent New York Times op-ed by Ramanan Laxminarayan, an economist and self-described epidemiologist who praised India’s lockdown as necessary to save millions of lives because in his apparently model based judgement 500 million Indians could be infected and the consequences would be dire in the absence of draconian measures. The author claims to have a model but the estimates he provides has a barebones verbal description of what the model purports to do with no presentation of either the mathematical model or statistical methodology and jumping directly to his alarmist conclusions. Yet, this dubious piece of research which cannot be replicated has dominated thinking about the spread of COVID-19 and ways to respond to it.

On March 26, the United Kingdom downgraded COVID-19 and said it is no longer a High Consequence Infectious Disease  (HCID). In particular, low mortality rates were cited as a reason for the downgrade. Reacting to the UK announcement, Deborah Birx, the White House Response Coordinator for COVID-19, went so far as to say that the doomsday fatality scenarios predicted by widely publicized models are very likely wrong. Specifically, she argued that either infection rates, especially of those asymptomatic, are much higher than we thought, or the transmission mechanism is not correctly understood. Even more extraordinary, she stated bluntly: “The predictions of the models don’t match the reality on the ground either in China, South Korea or Italy.”

This is the crux of the matter. As argued by Stanford medicine professors Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on March 24, a few days prior to the UK decision, there’s a serious methodological error in the way that fatality rates are being computed. Following conventional practice, as we did above, the fatality rate is computed as the number of deaths out of total confirmed cases, converted into a percentage. They correctly argue that this is an upward biased estimate as it commits the fallacy of selection. In other words, confirmed cases are those who’ve obviously shown symptoms and been admitted for treatment. However, the correct denominator is not confirmed cases but the actual total number of infections, a number which is obviously much larger.


Also read: Kerala promulgates Covid-19 ordinance to restrict duration of essential services


In the event that there are many infected people who’re asymptomatic, the number infected will be much larger than the number of confirmed cases, and the correct mortality rate therefore will be much lower by several orders of magnitude. According to their estimates, the true mortality rate is not what we reported above for the US, 1.5 percent, but more like 0.01 percent. If we assume that their calculation would hold true for India as well, the actual mortality rate in India would be an almost unmeasurably small 0.017 percent.

The public policy implications are very clear.

A disease which has a high infection rate that produces mostly mild symptoms and a mortality rate lower than the common flu is not a non-issue, but it’s not a cause for the levels of panic and paranoia that we’re witnessing around the world, including in India. The obvious issue is that a disease with high infection rates requiring people with even mild symptoms to seek medical help will be a huge burden on the public health system. At some point, as is already happening in some places including the US, hospital beds and ventilators may have to be rationed. There is thus a strong case to ensure testing, screening and enforced self-isolation for those exhibiting COVID-19 like symptoms for the recommended 14 day quarantine period. However, there is no valid argument for a draconian total lockdown of the type that has been imposed in India. For an uncertain and relatively small gain in reduced infections, there is a huge economic, social, and human cost which has already begun to manifest itself.

Good public policy is always based on the best science and most recent and reliable evidence.

Unfortunately, it is not at all clear that science or evidence were the basis of India’s lockdown. The good news is that there is still time to recalibrate in light of new research, as the UK and the US are doing. At a minimum, the government must undertake a cost-benefit analysis to measure the likely gain of a lockdown versus the burgeoning economic costs of basically shutting the economy down, in a country with many poor people already reeling from an economic downturn.

The total lockdown perhaps makes sense in a world in which COVID-19 carries extremely high mortality rates. We now know that this is very likely incorrect. The Narendra Modi government needs to re-think its policy before the lockdown produces an economic and humanitarian disaster.

Rupa Subramanya is an economist and researcher based between India and Canada. Views are personal.

This article was first published by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

VIEW COMMENTS

130 COMMENTS

  1. Get your facts together. Criticism brings effective changes but criticism just for the sake of maligning a country can show your immaturity author. The Print is infamous for misrepresenting India every chance it gets. India must learn to avoid these articles, she wouldn’t have been saved from catharsis even if the lockdown had not been announced as early as it was. If India is so bad at everything then stop talking about her. Leave her to fend for her own self, your kind words are not needed. It makes me sick and nauseous. The media just sell negative.

  2. All the supporters of this article, what’s your view now with cases in India being at 10000+ and not at 700+ that the article was basing its arguments on?

    I haven’t read this site before, but I don’t think I will come back here anymore, going by the standard of articles written here, like this one.

  3. Rupa, the only alternative to a lockdown today is what Italy has done .. first allow things to go on as normal and when the number of cases spikes then you have high cases, high deaths plus a lockdown.. like Italy, Spain, France… Is that such a better option really? Everything is not about money.. Wealth has many forms.. being healthy is one of the most important aspects to enjoy life.. would anyone willingly take on a major disease for a large amount of many? Health is one of the most important forms of wealth.

  4. Even with a very low percentage of severe cases, if even 2% of indians get corona virus and 10% of them get severely infected, with our population it can go to 2,40,000 severe infections ..much more than the total number across the world today .. do we want to be there Rupa? And can you imagine the chaos in our hospitals?.. Without the lockdown one person can cause 20 new infections per week.. so the numbers would go up very fast ..

  5. Read your article and it seems that you are taking forward the same thinking on which America has got so bad in front of this epidemic. In the coming few weeks, the emerging pattern of America will determine how true your analysis is.

  6. Locking down 1.3 billion people to save the citizens is not harsh. It’s the easiest and best decision the govt can make.
    Making doctors choose which person should die and who can be put on ventilators like in Italy is harsh.
    Making healthcare workers work 18 hours a day exposed to the virus treating patients is harsh.
    Exposing millions of people at risk due to chronic illnesses and diabetes , TB and AIDS in India by removing the lockdown is very harsh.
    Author has no clue about the disease calling it less dangerous than common cold because it kills fewer people. Please check the fatality rate again.

  7. how did even this stupid thing got published..
    As the second most populated country in the world everyone should know the consequences of the deadly virus. and the indian government knows how to deal with this.. its not just a simple thing India is needs a little panic or ill move into a worst situation.

  8. The majority of the comments so far are calling the author fool and what not. While she may have not given sufficient evidence to back her hypothesis, a complete disregard for her ideas is also amateurish and bordering on paranoia. One thing that must not be forgotten that the disease was introduced into India by the well-off but the poor are paying the bulk of the costs. The least Govt could have done is thought about millions who are migrants and need family support. While the family members of the privileged continued to pour in India through international flights and were not quarantined strictly, the poor were treated like cattle by the policymakers. The dignity of life is the right of everyone, the poor must have been given the choice to reach to their homes whether they live in villages or small towns or elsewhere. There was no community transmission at this stage and people have the fundamental right to be with their family if they choose to. In the end, the poor still migrated in even worse conditions. 21-day is not a small period to survive with no means and no family support.

  9. Nice try Rupa”ji” , next time when you try to influence an opinion take the help of a professional writer so that even if the content still sucks atleast the writing style would be appreciated by people.

  10. At this point in time we will do better without your advise. You have nothing good to contribute except finding fault with any decision Govt does. Plz close your shop, for some time, India will do better.

  11. You’re not a doctor, so kindly keep your disproportionately big mouth shut! I am a doctor and I know what this virus is capable of doing and I know, not just believe, that this shutdown was needed and it has only been delayed: it should have been initiated much before!

    Again, shut up!

  12. The comments here prove how hopelessly clueless Indians are in terms of economic reasoning and critical thinking. How hard is it for anybody in PM seat to take a decision that PM has taken? Even a college kid put in his place will say just lock everything down. That is easiest way to save your face and its a cowardly way out. The disaster from economic collapse will be even hurtful than the virus.

  13. Why arent you the PM yet!!?
    You seem to be such a dare devil, that in case you have theives robbing away houses in your locality, you would still keep your doors open and and sleep away to glory.
    I recommend you take down this article before people ridicule you like anything.
    PS: I am NOT a Modi bhakt!

  14. Oh Wow! I mean Just WOW! Dear writer, I am bowled over by your Intellegence! Your Intellegence should be appreciated. Nay! It should actually be celebrated.
    Why arent you the PM yet!!?
    You seem to be such a dare devil, that in case you have theives robbing away houses in your locality, you would still keep your doors open and and sleep away to glory.
    I recommend you take down this article before people ridicule you like anything.
    PS: I am NOT a Modi bhakt!

  15. Ok, perfect. The decision was made on “assumptions”. And what have you done “author mam”? Wrote another article on “your assumptions”, keeping in mind the “assumptions” which seems logical to many. I am sorry but your mathematics is little weak. Mortality percentage concern is always absolute and not relative. Moreover, steps are being taken to limit the spread and thus limit the absolute mortality. Nobody is claiming it to be highly infections disease they can’t handle, but it’s the concern of its spread, which must be limited by any means. What I could perceive that in your terms lockdown was not necessary, right? Then your “small” percentage of mortality and critically ill patients would have been surpassed the entire medical facilities of India by now.

    • My dear writer of this article, one doesn’t have to wait for the panic to strike to get into action when it is too late. Considering the population density of India, I feel proud of the State and the central governments initiative for a complete lockdown. Freedom of expression should Also exercise responsible journalism or blogging.

    • This is the authors point of view, she has a right to say what she thinks. You have your opinions and you have the right to agree or disagree.
      Don’t make it personal and condemn her because she thinks differently.

      • Actually there is nothing called personal, one way or the other every people influences others by their behaviours, thinkings, lifestyles, food choices etc etc. One person may think its his or her choice, its her life but as the person is living in a society, there is a responsibilty towards the society. If the deadly virus came from any food consumed by chinese people and any person had the idea of the result then it would have been better to stop them right at the beginning from consuming that food even if the chinese says its their personal choice. The world has every right to stop them. Sooner or later nothing remains personal. If its positive then society is benefited if its negative then society suffers. At this point of time she could use her opportunity to spread awareness and support the government but she is dividing people’s opinion by influencing people in a way. Which is not acceptable.

  16. I am as opposed to the Modi government as can be. I look at The Print for alternative news which is a lot of times superseded by main strain media due to it being bought out by the right/government croonies.

    But this article is ridiculous. Wtf is the author on? One can’t criticize the government just because it is the position one has taken in the past. The government has done the absolute correct step in locking down before the cases went up.

    I’m literally shaking with anger here at the Editor who thought this deserved a space in your website/outlet. This article will be used by the right to show you to be idiots in the future.

    Not every anti Government op-ed needs space. Take this shit down, Print.

  17. Hope The Print and this stupid author will take a cue from the comments lest u become irrelvent in the society.

  18. The reason for the “draconian” measures as you put it are:-
    -It’s highly infectious. Spreads quickly. India needs to be testing 100,000+ a day at the least to get even a ball park of the extent.
    – You handpicked Dr. Birx’s statement but ignored Dr. Fauci’s when he said he expects US fatalities between 100,000-200,000.
    – Measures are necessary to make sure that not too many people are affected at the same time so as to allow hospitals to handle it.

    Many countries like Italy (and much of europe) and even China ignored it in the early stages and look at the result. We have far fewer beds per patients than those hospitals and most of our bed capacity is in huge open wards. We do not have the numbers in terms of Ventilators or isolation rooms if we take the full brunt.

  19. There was a similar article on The Quint, by shriman bsdk sibal, echoing near similar sentiments. Both print and the other trash are a disgrace to the society, purely thriving on funding by anti India, thukde thukde gang. This rant is by an illegitimate offspring of one of those leftist or TT gang from Lutyens. Instead of earning money like this, there are other ways…..

  20. What a hypocrite. Shall government wait for mortality to go up? Then you will write government has not done anything about such fatal pandemic. Please don’t vomit garbage in name of writing, use your brains.

  21. I think Rupa wrote this from the comfort of her home, and the chief of The Print received some favors from China’s Xi.

  22. In the face of what seemed an impending catastrophe, the government chose to lockdown the country. Situations like this call for continuous evaluation and the author has presented enough data to suggest that there may not be a catastrophe. Certainly, if there are many seriously ill, we will know within two weeks as the time between exposure and serious symptoms is about 12 days. The three week lockdown gives time to assess the situation and decide what should be done.

  23. This guy is following trump ideology , USA is still not in lockdown and trump expects death of below a lakh people is okay .
    Just one word STOOPID.

  24. What does an economist have to say about such a drastic vital infection. Worst piece of shit I’ve ever gone through. And you “The print” lame of you to post such idiotic crazy personal opinions. Shame on for posting such an article written by an ignorant person who’s not even related to medicine by any chance. She might not even know how many sense organs a human body has!!!

  25. Take down this article, it is outright stupid and dangerous. People should spend time learning about this disease and epidemiology before writing such dangerous stupid opinion pieces.

  26. The author has the right to air the views, and has to be respected.But the moot question that begs an answer is whether humans which make a nation should be given primacy over economic thoughts or vice versa.Would you apply the same barometer to a life in your family.Please remember that the virus has not announced any mortality rates or guaranteed a percentage.It is we who have deciphered as per our understanding,convenience and geopolitics linked media publicity.For instance 16400 people have died in US due to flu like symptoms, break up is 2400 now designated as covid deaths and 14000 pre wuhan designated as flu deaths. Human life is more important than economy because it is humans who make economy and not the other way around.Reconsider your thoughts from human centric point of view rather than economy centric path in times of disasters.

  27. Where does The Print find these unthinking, corrupt and nonsensical commentators? What utter nonsense is spewed out by these people with their blind hatred toward Modi? please cease and desist publishing such rubbish!

  28. Please show me your degree in epidemiology and infectious disease before giving us your opinion….

    Also, since you are an economist, why dont you quantify the cost of a human life vis-a-vis the cost of closing down the country and suit your thesis of how many deaths are “acceptable”….

    Witless prattle by the uneducated and the bored is no excuse to pollite the internet with such pseudo-intellectual bilge.

  29. While Shekhar Gupta the boss of ThePrint talking sensible things, there is only one explanation of why ThePrint is flooding with panic mongering articles misleading public with deliberate lies and cooked up forecasting models with no trace of validation of the fake claims being made and that is either Shekhar Gupta is playing double games or he is not in control of ThePrint.

  30. Global death count due to COVID-19:

    Feb1, 2020: 304

    March 1, 2020: 3050

    March 30, 2020: 33900

    So in the last two months, the number of deaths increased 10 times per month.

    If the trends continue the world is staring at 300,000 deaths in April.

  31. This is an extremely irresponsible and ridiculous article written in the current situation…I am surprised that the publication even approved and allowed for such idiotic views to be published. The author should realise that she has a skill and power to make a change and influence people and should use it correctly instead of misleading an already scared and stressed nation. Shame on you.

  32. Well, this article is based on the premise that UK and US is downgrading COVID19, so we must too.
    We dont need to follow what UK or US is doing… With our 1.3 billion population, we will reach dooms day much earlier than we could realise, id draconian measures are not taken at this stage.. Also the numbers the government is releasing per day is less because of lack of testing kits. If more people are tested, the actual numbers will be several times higher. in this situation a lockdown is probably the only solution. What should have been done was to make arrangements for the millions of daily wagers who have been affected, and the lockdown should have taken place in stages .

    India should have taken action much earlier and stopped foreign flights for a few days and strictly quarantined people coming from outside. It didn’t do it in time and now lockdown remains our only hope to get out of the situation.

  33. What? Rupa is writing on Covid-19? Quick, please pass the skull drill and scalpel, I want to do a brain surgery.

    Leave pandemics to experts. Nobody needs opinion of a shoddy economist. Shekhar “wheeler dealer” Coupta’s bigoted rag can only carry such news.

    Get a life Morons. Need not criticize everything the govt does. Listen to doctors, follow what they recommend. That is what the govt did.

  34. Anybody comes and writes a moronic article and it gets published. The thoughts of this author are dangerous. This article should be taken down if the journal wishes to maintain it’s reputation.

  35. shoddy journalism. Leftist pseudo liberal. Crappy article. Which world you living. Don’t oppose for the sake of opposing. Just because you have to write a piece, you will write this non sense shit. You don’t deserve any platform what so ever to voice your self because you are biased and distorted with your own wrong beliefs.

  36. Rupa is contradicting herself.

    Actual Mortality may be 0.017, she says, if all COVID +ve cases were identified. That is not possible and has not been done anywhere in the world.

    Without symptoms we cannot test, as it would be a waste.

    But presen mortality is based on confirmed test vs death which is about 1.5 to 2% in India and USA but Italy it is about 10%.

    However reality is that deaths are occurring because of infection of COVID 19 in a already diseased or weak person.

    Rupa should take into consideration Number of hospital beds per person, no of ventilators per person and compare it with UK USA etc.

    If there is NO LOCKDOWN such people will overwhelm Indian health care system bringing it to a collapse.

    Further it will make the health care system unable to handle other diseases too. India has highest number of DIABETICS, CORONARY patients etc apart from regular communicable diseases.

    WHAT IF with COVID19 we have local epidemic ?!

    WHAT IF there is an intention to spread the disease (as it happened in Kasaragod).?!

    We are still only in 5th day of Lockdown. Whether GOVt decision is right or wrong time will tell.

    THE PRINT like many other news media is biased. Some are for and some are against Govt.

    True impartial analysis in news media is now a myth.

    There is a huge push for more testing in various comments and articles. It usually means that someone is sitting with stock of testing kits.

  37. A suggestion for all the data warriors below: look at the countries that have a low rate of infection and death despite not having the lockdown: e.g. Germany, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. And there are others. This has not been analyzed in detail. Lockdowns can actually increase the rate of infections as people are locked together in their houses, infecting one another. That is one reason why Italy’s rates are not leveling off despite 15 days of shutdown.

    The best disinfectant is sunshine and open air, which India has plenty of. The current rates of infection and deaths are ridiculously low. Precautions yes. Lockdowns no. They cause more damage than help, especially in the case of India.

    Blindly following the model adopted by China is not of much help. It is that model that will cause a lot of deaths in the West.

    • Sir, please understand that India’s healthcare system isnt as 1/10th as strong as the US or the UK. There are other side effects of Covid19 infections, major being unavailability of AIDS n TB medicines which are being used to treat the patients. This virus has an R° ratio between 1.5-3 which is highly infectious and that’s what we’re trying to prevent. Even if 1% of our population gets Corona, then our healthcare system will straight off collapse. Please understand. The disinfectant you’re talking about doesn’t work in polluted cities like Delhi and Mumbai with huge populations. Hope u understand.

      • I understand that. But you are wrong about Delhi and Mumbai. Bangkok is almost equally huge. And almost equally polluted. No cases there that call for lockdown.

        Hope you will understand this. Please.

        Even if what you say is right, do you really think that sending 100 million people to their villages on foot will decrease the chances of reducing R? Please try top understand.

  38. You are confused, or deliberately trying to confuse, between cause and effect. The low number of cases are because of a strict lockdown. You are saying because there are so few cases, lockdown can be lifted or be made less rigorous.

  39. Ms. Rupa Subramanya appears to have a skewed view of the Covid 19 pandemic & perhaps she is more of a expert than the scientists & experts who are trying to grapple with the problem in attempting to contain it without causing more morbidity & mortality than it has caused hitherto. Perhaps she would rather have the lockdown only after the community spread has started after we enter Phase 3 of the pandemic. Perhaps she like to be reactive than proactive. With the mentality of our populace who revel in violation of any laws, rules or advisories any thing less than the total lockdown would be useless. Even with the draconian lockdown, as Ms. Rupa calls it, we have seen people violating it & mass migration disregarding the calls for social distancing. Can any one imagine the consequences even if one amongst these masses of people is positive, even if asymptomatic & spreads the infection to those with he is in close proximity & to his village? It does’nt require a very vivid imagination to think of the horrendous consequences in such a scenario. Do we have the capacity to deal with such a situation? Perhaps Ms. Rupa would have us wait for this before acting. It’s very easy to criticize & find fault with whatever is done. Yes, given that it has caused a lot problems with which various state govt are trying to tackle on a war footing. I for one feel that it better to be safe than sorry.

  40. The Print, leave it. It is beyond your capabilities n authors like the one who wrote this article. You won’t succeed. This country will.

  41. Are you dumb?? The reason the numbers are less is becuase of this “draconian” measure . India is a ticking time bomb right now. This lock down is the only way to delay or completely avoid the repercussions of the bomb!

  42. Are you dumb?? The reason the numbers are less is becuase of this “draconian” measure . India is a ticking time bomb right now. This lock down is the only way to delay or completely avoid the repercussions of the bomb!

  43. When this comes in theprint, one can conclude that the opinion is a bunch of garbage and the author does not disappoint. What is this non-sense? We do not need to panic as the numbers are low. That also might be because we did not test and the numbers could be large.

    What is this author trying to say? Dumbass

    If it is small number, Lockdown is an over reaction
    If the number is large, the Govt did not have proper readiness.

    Time we ignore such publications and such dumbass opinion makers and listen to people who talk sense and constructively.

  44. It is really surprising when people start using statistics and undermine human lives..How callously the word fatality rate is being used..The fact of the matter is that people are dying because of a virus for which there is no cure. What we know is that it spreads and can be fatal. India is an extremely diverse country and keeping an epidemic in check here is a herculean task. My earnest request is to let the government do what it is doing and rise above petty politics and let us win the war against this virus ” alive”…

  45. I felt this line of thinking is so preposterous that I was compelled to come down and comment on the lazy and ignoramus journalism.

    How many fatalities are okay for you? Would you be fine with 1% of people dead in your city? Just think of the apartment you live in. Are you fine with 3 people from a 300 sized building complex doing because of your article?

    Where are your facts? US and UK have miserably failed in their attitude and attempts to do anything meaningful for this crisis. With testing they find 100K cases in a matter of just 2 weeks. They hospital systems are much better prepared now when these targeted people develop serious symptoms. They have done a great job of doing an early identification.

    India’s numbers are latent. They are not already on hospitals because of the delay in symptomatic responses. Wait for another ten days when they start showing up in the hospitals. When we start swarming the hospitals in numbers such as 10000-20000 you will start seeing the fall out of our system.

    I would hope for you, Rupa to recant your article soon enough and actively make amends against false propaganda. Announcing this lockdown was so necessary that even if it may appear to be a political suicide, the government has went ahead with it. This is not some demonetization drive that you can condemn as extraneous. Lives are at stake. The opportunity cost is just too high.

  46. The author is just trying to seek attention by writing an article ( contrarian theory ?) which does not have any ground to prove her claims. As a reader has mentioned all it takes one life of the author’s loved one to realise the magnitude of the pandemic.

    If you are not be able to be a part of a solution at least be not a spoilsport.

  47. These are just whimsical opinion. There needs to be scientific basis to an opinion, specially one pertaining to an epidemic. A government cannot resort to soft approaches because the economy may suffer. Counting the low infection and mortality rate as a basis for formulating an opinion just makes up for a “amusing read”.

  48. It’s been a while since I’ve read such an uninformed and short sighted article. Do you want a repeat of what is happening in Italy? Have you been living under a rock? Please pick up the newspaper and read about what’s happening around the world. You have quoted the most careless administrations as models! The US and the UK both face public health crisis as we speak, and you talk about how we should learn from them about how to respond to this situation? That’s the most incredibly stupid thing I’ve heard all decade. China, who’s now finally gotten the situation under control also had a full lockdown. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when. We need to err on the side of caution! Even with a mortality rate as low as 1 percent, the number of people who can get affected and put our healthcare system under strain is enough of a reason to shutdown.

    This article MAY have made sense had the government locked down with 0 zero cases. But even with 1 active case and the highly contagious nature of the virus, it is no overreaction by any stretch of imagination. If we do not learn from the situation in Italy and Spain, it’s just a matter of time before the same thing happens in India. Hundreds dead every day, with no relief in sight. Are you going to take responsibility for that?

    Didn’t think so.

  49. One of the most stupid article on theprint.in, which speaks and draws conclusion without any concrete reliable evidence or simulation study and is fully with all guess work, predominantly assumptions.

  50. So, you are saying that we should have enough number of cases and deaths to get paranoid and panic?

  51. Why has this article even been printed?? Is it an article also by any chance? Such Senseless lines.

  52. Kudos to the Harebrained Writer who has written such bul*$h*t ARTICLE which is nothing but a garble of phony English words, Collected from all over the Internet. Exactly to such an author N Taleb describe as IYI (Intellectual Yet Idiot)). They have NO SKIN IN THE GAME. The Print is regarding highly as thought provoking e magazine, I am surprised to see such a lengthy article with misinformation. Kindly treat Online Space as also Real state 😁.

  53. Have you ever heard of PRECAUTION IS BETTER THAN CURE…. ITS NEVER TOO EARLY TO START A GOOD DEED….
    why do you want Italy or Spain or us situation to happen first to realise the seriousness of the time…
    Stop publishing such stupid articles.
    Looking at india population and with the rate it can spread here,,, it’s best decision taken and we are with our government in helping us through the time and saving our lives and family.
    It’s the best decision taken WHO also says so that so far India is moving best direction.
    But why would some sick people like you would ever appreciate government for anything.
    Stay safe stay home please

  54. In the face of a new, unknown disease that is wrecking havoc on older, vulnerable populations and better equipped healthcare systems, decisions are not made based only on realtime research – of which something new keeps popping up everyday.

    We are thankful that the government is not basing policy on Google and Whatsapp research like this opinion writer is.

    The government should keep people first and that is what the lockdown is about. At best we will get through this with low fatality count, at worst the much needed audit, dialogue over and investments into public healthcare infrastructure should start. The world over, economies have been wrecked already and everyone has to recover together.

    Also prevention is better than cure. We dont say that enough.

  55. “A disease which has a high infection rate that produces mostly mild symptoms and a mortality rate lower than the common flu is not a non-issue,” – what a moronic statement. Flu mortality is .02%, even based on the data you have published, the fatality rate of COVID-19 is 1-2%. see the differnce
    .02 VS 1-2. how many times higher is the mortality rate.

  56. Such a dumbass u are, first use your sense and brain also, as a medical student I know what are the consequences if the lockdown has not imposed. Italy has world’s best healthcare system still unable to control its death rate, so how India can hold if coronavirus cases is at saturation.

  57. Selective journalism at its crappiest.
    The lower designation of the virus by the UK cleared the way for treatment at ordinary hospitals, against only specialist ones.
    Basically they said it’s not an Ebola (with a 90% mortality) and can be treated by GPs.
    When the writer chooses to use just part of a fact, its more dangerous than a lie.

  58. This is the most idiotic piece i have ever seen. Italy has already 10K deaths, if we multiply it in Indian scale then the death will reach a million. The deaths are always low in the beginning, then it spikes. Look at UK,USA, Netherlands. They are spiking .

  59. With all due respects to the author and other comments, there are many here who are commenting just to defend the bjp govt or to discredit the author.

    I’m no bjp fan, I think they were busy causing riots and licking trump while the virus was spreading in the world.
    But, the virus knows no nationality and attacks the most vulnerable in a fatal way. We need to stop the virus from spreading. The only way to stop is to isolate.

    Govt is obligated to take the extreme measures. Every single life matters. if my grandma is part of the low % of fatalities, it still matters to me. Hope the author empathizes and readers understand the situation.

  60. Madam please stop selling snake oil. You do not know anything about this, nor do most people who are not epidemiologists.
    But I am a data scientist and what I can tell you that the models on Italy and Spain predicted worse outcomes based on *no* lockdowns. Lockdowns save lives.
    Remember one thing, if everyone is locked down 100% in isolation then this virus will die out in 3-4 weeks. India is doing the right thing, the only data point we have is a correlation of delayed lockdown with high mortality. California in US locked down first in US and New York delayed lockdown, the pronounced peak in NY and flattening of curve in California is a good data point to learn from.
    Also your casual writing of “1-2 % mortality give or take”… well why don’t you take my advise and please shut up.

  61. We know how to save ourselves and how to respect the government’s decision and how to stand hand in hand at the time of crisis. I wont say someone should have died from your family or relatives to make you realise how insane you are when you could help the society by spreading awareness with your writtings. The extent of panic from corona is not entirely new when we have lunatic people like you sheltered here on earth. You are actually visus. Sanitise your mind first.

  62. At a minimum, the government must undertake a cost-benefit analysis.

    Can you help with some back of envelope numbers so that government will find it easier. You could have done it here instead of writing this long article

    • Government already has the advisors it needs. Erring on the side of caution is the only correct strategy. If after sometime it is proved that the reaction was outsized then it will be a better outcome than otherwise.

  63. In this wire some articles saying that lockdown is necessary and other saying it’s just over reaction very few people will die lot of confused don’t know what they are saying

    • No real content in this article. Just blaming govt in what ever they do doesn’t serve the purpose. Lock down is indeed a much needed step to fight back covid-19. Looking at the poor health infrastructure in India, it is imperative that we take strong steps. I am sure with this effort we will be able to control the spread.

  64. You only wrote an article for the sake of writing but havent used ur brain even for a second. Idiots like you are filled everywhere who understand nothing but only using words and write shit…….. Do you even understand what exponential increase is???? So i urge you to first do your homework and then write article…. Rather than just doing it to satisfy your ego

  65. When there is no previous history or experience it is better to err on the side of caution. Every social or medical problem can’t have a mathematical solution.

  66. Save us from your gyan!! Your credentials suggest you are an “economist”! I think you should try your hand at yellow journalism and Quackery, lady!

  67. I am surprised this article could pass editorial scrutiny.
    It is not a different point of view… They are welcome.
    This is simply idiotic.

  68. The Print always publish Dumbo Article.
    According to Author, Death rate in First world countries with capable Health care system is not alarming for Poor Underdeveloped/Undeveloped nations which do not have a well established health care system.
    Just see the Statistic of Medical equipment per 10K population then you would understand that all the resources are for Rich people (Just like Author) so it is better to put lockdown to save poor.

  69. There was an Oxford study which also suggested infection rates are much higher than previously thought. At any rate, the human toll of this draconian shutdown is questionable given India’s young demographics and warmer weather, both of which are likely to play to India’s advantage.

    Unfortunately, we now know all too well that Modi does not like outside input. He prefers to huddle with those in the PMO and once they take a decision it is nearly impossible to get through the cheerleading barrier that surrounds it. For that reason, the prospects of changing govt policy is slim at best.

    • Warm weather & young demographics have NO BEARING on the Covid-19, you have nothing but dangerous false information in your head & you are calling Modi as uninformed?

      You’re a tool.

  70. In case no lockdown would have been imposed, the same author would have cited different set of statistics from the internet sitting in the comforts of her home and criticised the Govt for not taking adequate measures including lockdown.

    To quote her ” Good public policy is always based on the best science and most recent and reliable evidence.” Well I haven’t seen any reference to it in this article, so on what basis she has come to conclusion that this lockdown lacks scientific and recent evidence for this decision of the Govt.

    The author writes “At a minimum, the government must undertake a cost-benefit analysis to measure the likely gain of a lockdown versus the burgeoning economic costs of basically shutting the economy down “. I think where human lives are involved it’s shame she’s talking of cost benefit analysis; the thought process is rather from humanitarian perspective rather than economic.

    If she claims herself to be economist and public policy research then I Challenge her to come out with some constructive article on how the Govt should move forward in reconstructing the economy post this Pandemic, I think that would be real journalism than doing postmortem based on half baked truths and minority opinion of experts on COVID -19.

    • The best point forward is that the vast majority of the people of India have reposed faith in the policy of the Modi govt and faithfully helped in its implementation as a word of law, howsoever draconian the move is stated to be. May be the govt withdraw it before the 21 day deadline to 14 day lockdown, depending on the outcome within this fortnight. Safety definitely saves in the long run. The govt will be well advised to take good care of the poorest of the poor in this hour of crisis. Let the richest of the rich come forward to help the deprived masses,instead of indulging in black marketing and profttaking.

  71. Agree with your view , but the contrasting view must come from people who has some credibility and must be an expert on the subject matter. I have never heard of this writer before. These are fly by night experts. She is so convineently forgetting that despite being low mortality rate what kind of havoc it has already created with older population in Spain / Italy. Just think about Indian slums , the no. of people and the density, COVID-19 has the full potential to become a disaster in India . May be sound harsh but, no Govt. (be it congress or BJP) can take care of 50 crore poor people in India in this kind of scenario. Lets accept that every system has its limitations and some part of population will suffer whether we like or not. Every state and Central govt. are doing their bit to mange the situation

    • Ma’am, the low mortality rate argument is only valid till the number of critical patients doesn’t saturate our healthcare system which is already in a dismal state.
      Once it saturates the system, the mortality can be greater than 10%. Please corroborate my views with the data coming out from Italy, Iran & Spain. Please reach out to me if there’s still any doubt with my views. I’m a final year MBBS student at AIIMS Jodhpur and have been extensively reading about the epidemiology of SARS CoV-2.

      I find this op-ed to be a product of outright asymmetry of knowledge at the part of the ‘expert’. The lockdown is a step in the right direction.

  72. I went back and read comments from people in Italy in early Feb that sounded just like this idiot. Now they have changed their tune and some have tried deleting articles. Hopefully it does not hit India very badly. But if it does the jacka$$ that wrote this article will change his tune and look for something else to be dramatic about. Hopefully you come to terms with your need for attention and stop hurting people before too many people die.

  73. This comment is to the author:

    Don’t ever think about writing the opposite when things get alright! We hate chameleonic behaviour, especially with respect to writing.

    Little would you know how difficult it is to impose a lockdown in the world’s largest democracy without much of people’s dissent. And mind you, this is to ensure the well-being of every Indian, not only for well-educated persons like you trying to use bombastic vocabulary to influence the readers’ thinking.

    Journalism is getting so out of bounds nowadays. The hell I can also start writing stupid pieces like this!

  74. “The Narendra Modi government needs to re-think its policy” – in order to re-think, you first have to think. You assume they actually think or analyze, first. You give this admin too much credit for their analytical abilities. Truth is that they’re impulsive & decisive just for optics. They blurt out whatever comes to mind in the spur of the moment & expect that to become policy & law. This is administration by proclamation & diktat – it does not work. obedient, innocent people pay the price. Modi, an uneducated man himself has witnessed the power of action & the PR effect it has on the masses. Its never thought out, its impulsive action. This cannot end well at all.

    • Please don’t even use the word ‘uneducated’ for NM out of ‘Modiphobia’. You are not even 0.0001 percent of him. He is managing 1.35 billions,you cannot manage even 135 honestly. You prefer Pappus to run the system?

  75. This is the most idiotic article I have ever read.She is an economist not epidimologist.we are all battling against an invisible lethal strain of virus.I am a obg specialist working in Govt hospital in telangana.we are all working under lot of stress n tension .we fear the safety of our family n community.our govt is doing its level best to tackle this problem.Morons like her write some stupid article n influence innocent people.We don’t have stong health care in India.Even those countries who have utterly failed.
    This pandemic has to be managed only by total lockdown n aggressively identifying positive cases n their contacts.Nothing short of this can save us.I think this dangerous article should be removed immediately

  76. So, 1-2% of death rate isn’t alarming according to author.
    What a piece of junk article.
    Why not devalue life more than you have already done in this article, perhaps you will rethink when someone you care has their life at an edge.

  77. So, 1-2% of death rate isn’t alarming according to author.
    What a piece of junk article.
    Why not devalue life more than you have already done in this article, perhaps you will rethink when someone you care has their life at an edge.

  78. I think the true value of any opinion on how to fight the virus will be known only 6 months down the line ,but I will agree with the author that the mathematical models are overstating the numbers by a huge margin and have created unnecessary panic .Those who have created this models dont have to earn three daily bread unlike the daily wage earner.

  79. This has made me so angry.Stop being so biased.Do u have any other solution?Success of coronavirus in developed countries is due to the fact that they downplayed it n n didn’t take a serious note of it.All other countries r praising India for controlling this disease.Also we all know our fellow Indian ppl n how much they abide by the rule.If the virus spread in India like it did in Italy then considering our public health system n population, it will be very difficult to prevent the disaster.Damn u whoever has written this.

  80. The fatality rate assumed by the author is not correct and somewhat selective.Has she taken into account the rates in Italy,Spain,Iran et all?The suggestion to lower the consequences of this Pandemic is indeed devoid of any serious reasoning.At least the Indian Government started preventive measures much earlier than other countries.As for the supposedly large unreported and asymptomatic cases,there is very little reliable statistical evidence.On the contrary the Indian Council of Medical Research had undertaken randomised sample surveys and their findings provide the basis for the present testing policy..Any Statistician will know the value of findings from small samples despite their size limitations.Finally the evolution of policy in the case of this Pandemic is based on consultations among. the countries best medical and allied scientific personnel in and outside the Government.The Prime Minister does not unilaterally determine policy on such matters.One wishes the author had studied all the literature on the subject before venturing into prescrptive recommendations.

  81. Even if the lockdown seems draconian the end result if no lockdown is so easy to predict. The infections will blow out of proportion and more severe measures like not admitting elderly into the hospital or god knows what happens to the poor who are infected in already strained health care system. Priorities will change and the end result will be chaotic. Densely populated countries need to follow different models than the developed countries. One can see many reasons how this pandemic may go out of proportion even if not supported by data. Afterall said and done I’ve been swayed by the article and my panic reduced a bit on Covid and increased a bit on economy.

  82. This is the best solution . we could stop the spread. If it was not done, virus would have gone to our villages where the medical facilities are less. By this lock down , it stays somewhat in Cities. Yes there are problems and in future also it will be a economical problem but this step was at most needed . Now government has time to work on the medical facilities . Just seeing the percentage does not help. Once the medical facilities are overwhelmed, all calculations will go in air. Social distancing the best solutions and in India , only lock down can help.

  83. Rupa Subrahmanya is not an epidemiologist. A lockdown is needed given India’s population density. China, France, Spain, Italy, Russia and New York State in America have imposed it. This is a public health emergency and India is particularly vulnerable given its overstretched health care system. This article is irresponsible.

  84. It would be nice if economists like this author and Laxminarayan stop calling them epidemiologists. In fact these NRIs are worse than Indians as they use their positions abroad to sell their propaganda in India.

    • You are an economist and not an epidemiologist. As it is your knowledge of economics is limited which you are selling in foreign countries who have half backed brains. Now don’t poke your nose in the area which doesnot assure you any money.

  85. Pathetic article. What alternatives are there? We should be thankful we are taking early precautions to make sure that the situation doesn’t blow out of proportion.

  86. One may or may not agree with the column. But both in the public discourse and more so in the higher echelons of decision making, many competing views should be discussed and debated before pressing the nuclear button. That did not happen with Demonetisation. With the abrogation of Article 370. Now with this, which will throw an already moribund economy under the bus. The scenes at Anand Vihar bus station will haunt the authorities for a long time. 2. We have changed our public discourse. Anyone who expresses a contrarian view is subjected to ad hominem attacks. Unlikely that in senior level decision making, a diametrically opposed point of view would be expressed, much less considered or acted upon. For India’s poor, both options are equally lethal.

    • Agree with your view , but the contrasting view must come from people who has some credibility and must be an expert on the subject matter. I have never heard of this writer before. These are fly by night experts. She is so convineently forgetting that despite being low mortality rate what kind of havoc it has already created with older population in Spain / Italy. Just think about Indian slums , the no. of people and the density, COVID-19 has the full potential to become a disaster in India . May be sound harsh but, no Govt. (be it congress or BJP) can take care of 50 crore poor people in India in this kind of scenario. Lets accept that every system has its limitations and some part of population will suffer whether we like or not. Every state and Central govt. are doing their bit to mange the situation

      • She is a regular in Print. Besides in a democracy different views will be expressed. To agree or disagree is your prerogative.

    • You idiot . This is about life and death. India healthcare system is worst comparative to Italy, FRance, China, USA. And if we don’t take early precautions, just imagine india like highly dense populated country situation , where 1.3 billion people stay close to each other. And why the hell you are counting here article 370 or demonitisat ion with corona epidemic. If tomorrow govt didn’t lockdown and people will die like Italy , bastard love ke you and the article author will write another article that Hindu nationalist govt. didn’t do any early major to save the people .

  87. Agenda driven Journalism is a bane of this profession. The good name yearned by so many selfless men & women are going down the drain because of some rotten apples in their midst.

  88. No would take author’s observation with a pinch of salt. As matter of fact she would be called anti Modi and national. Print may even pull down the article. Truth has no place. If she has praised lock down and Modi with few figures to say how serious it is and Modi is saviour etc., she would get huge applause.

  89. If not a ‘draconian’ lockdown then what is it that you suggest the govt should do? Add a solution as well to your article.

    All the research you state might be true but a lockdown is the need of the hour. If there is no lockdown the infection will just continue to spread and the ‘relative’ rate of mortality will thus increase as well. Simple maths, just like you mentioned.

    Please dont mislead your readers. Just by stating that ‘Views are personal’ doesnt help. You are obviously influencing the thinking of people here. So please take some responsibility when you write something.

    I am no BJP supporter or even a political person for that matter. Your article though ‘meaty’ with names and numbers lacks complete common sense.

  90. Do you think the numbers revealed in India are real?
    The real numbers are not revealed in order to stem panic. This is required so as to allow us to bounce back sooner or else this would continue for the next 6 months.

  91. Most Doctors seem to maintain that there is no reason why the virus will not spread or cause mortality in India like it has done in Italy. If it does, anything other than total lockdown would have looked a weak step from Govt. With no adequate scientific basis, the article seems slightly premature in its timing.

  92. Well made points and suggestions, and important to think this through .

    We are still very early into this disease, and we must account for under-reporting. Cases of patients reporting pneumonia and fever must be tested for Covid-19, if not already being done. Also stigma of visiting hospitals, despite the of severity of disease, is a common phenomenon in India – we must therefore give this situation time which would help us glean more accurate information of the situation on the ground.

    The R0 for this disease is 2.5-3, which suggests it is more infectious than the flu. Given this fact, the burden on our public healthcare systems is still going to be large, given that a small minority may still need critical care, and this, in absolute numbers, will still put our hospitals under strain.

    Death rates for the disease are not well-known, with wide-ranging estimates from Germany to Italy. The data from China may not entirely be reliable. Given this, we will have to build our own dataset, before we make conclusions about patterns/trends and policy prescriptions.  

    The economic and social consequences of the lockdown must be mitigated through unprecedented fiscal and socioeconomic policies, we must hold our governments to that. The bottom of the pyramid stands to lose a great deal. They also deserve economic support and compassion from rest of society.

    The consequences of lifting the lockdown prematurely can result in a vicious cycle, making the political and economic situation worse. The prudent option, therefore, is to monitor the situation aggressively during the lockdown (including ramping up testing, tracing and isolation), and make informed decisions as we get more data. (Experts have advocated for random sampling for testing to make better predictions of population infection rates, which is something we can do, to save cost and time).

    Larry Summers couldn’t have put it better – ‘It is not the measures that is hurting the economy , it is the virus.’ To prioritise economics over healthcare would amount to social darwinism.

Comments are closed.