Whether India will extend its Coronavirus lockdown will be decided by next week, say experts

A boy wearing a facemask sit as looks out from a closed market gate during government-imposed nationwide lockdown as preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus(, in Chandigarh on Wednesday April 1, 2020BCCL

  • India’s 21-day lockdown is set to end in another 12 days.
  • Experts believe that next week’s data will be critical to determine whether or not the lockdown shall remain in place.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed states to coordinate with the central government to form a common ‘exit-strategy’ to prepare for April 14.
India’s nationwide 21-day lockdown is set to end in 12 days. Doctors unanimously believe that implementing the lockdown was the only way to ensure containment in India with 1.35 billion people. However, whether or not the lockdown should end of April 14 will be determined by the how the outbreak plays out in the coming week, according to experts.

“We need to look at data to actually answer that question. The government will look at the mathematical models and data prediction to decide what is the best way forward in terms of lockdowns. But, one thing is very clear, social distancing is here to stay for a bit,” Dr Anupam Sibal, the group medical director of Apollo Hospitals told Business Insider.


People maintain social distance to buy vegetables at Kotak School Ground in Chinnawaltair, Visakhapatnam during Coronavirus lockdown BCCL

Even a second 28-day lockdown might not be enough, says study
A study by the Centre for Mathematical Science by the University of Cambridge estimates that the 21-day lockdown won’t be enough. Even a second 28-day lockdown will prove ineffective, the study says.

Four ways the Coronavirus outbreak could play out in India according to a study by the Centre for Mathematical Science, University of CambridgeIANS

Their forecast shows that the best way to flatten the curve is to implement a flat 49-day lockdown. Alternatively, two more phases of one 28-day lockdown and one 18-day lockdown may also ‘flatten the curve’ significantly.

“This week, things will definitely increase. Next week we’ll know if the lockdown actually benefited. If things are better, then I feel the government may extend the lockdown for another two weeks. But, all of this depends on the data that we get back,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali — a consultant physician at Bombay Hospital.

Deserted Sion-Panvel highway creek bridge seen during a countrywide lockdown to fight CoronavirusBCCL

However, the government is optimistic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed states to coordinate with the central government to formulate a common exit-strategy for a “staggered” re-emergence of the population on April 14. Other experts told Business Insider that the data may take longer to process as the Nizamuddin hotspot may skew the results.

Delhi fire service personnel sanitise an area near Nizamuddin mosque, after people who attended the religious congregation at Tabligh-e-Jamaat's Markaz, tested postive for COVID-19, in New Delhi.BCCL


“In the next few weeks, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine should remain the areas of focus,” Modi told the ministers.

More Coronavirus cases on the horizon — rural outbreak will lag behind urban spread
According to Sibal and Bhansali, India was bound to see an uptake in cases due to its density and population size. However, they also said that the country is doing considerably better than its European counterparts, in the 10th week of the Coronavirus.

“India will fall into diversification, almost a tale of two cities. There will be a strategy which will need to be deployed in the urban metros and there will be a natural lag which hits rural India starting probably 10-12 days from now, where we will maybe see bubbling of cases,” Dr Marcus Ranney of Thrive Global told Business Insider.


Essential supplies being handled to migrant workers in Kolkata, West Bengal during the nationawide Coroanavirus lockdownBCCL

“The wise thing to do would be to look at the data next week because now is the point where symptoms will start to show themselves in the cities assuming local transmission,” he added.

Sibal, Ranney and Bhansali agree that the government, those in the private sector and civil society as a whole needs to be careful to not take their “foot off the pedal”. A slowdown in the uptake of cases won’t necessarily imply that India’s out of the woods.

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