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India becomes the seventh most affected by Covid nation, even as the first of the three-phase Unlock Plan starts. Is this the right time to unlock? APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with experts including Dr Rahul Bhargava from Fortis Hospital, Gurugram, former IMA vice-chairman Dr DR Rai, and economic expert Akash Jindal.

Dr Bhargava said: “The numbers are going up menacingly, and we will soon become like the US or Italy.”

Dr Rai said: “The right steps are not being taken. All state activities are being allowed. Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal has sealed the border, but what will happen to office-goers to Noida? Opening temples and restaurants at one go is not good; it will be self-defeating.”

Jindal said: “We need to maintain a balance. Nearly 40 crore Indian workers could be pushed into poverty, and zero percent growth is staring at us. The common man is going to be affected. We cannot have lockdowns indefinitely. We have to defeat corona, but with social distancing and following the right norms. We need to take care of life and livelihoods.”

Dr Bhargava said: “By opening cinemas, restaurants and temples, will the economy recover? If the poor get sick in large numbers, we will need beds at hospitals.”

Dr Rai said: “Today, Delhi and Mumbai are in bad shape.”

Jindal said: “Workers went back because there was nothing for them in the towns. It is true the workers left in compelling circumstances. But there is no livelihood for them back in the villages. They will have to come back, to earn for their families. By extending lockdown, the economic impact will be severe.”

Dr Bhargava said: “Will families allow the workers to come back? We need to see our hospital infrastructure. If all beds are occupied by Covid patients, where will kidney or cancer patients go? President Trump got over-confident, and the world has seen what happened there.”

Jindal said: “Awareness about social distancing needs to go up among people.”

Dr Bhargava said: “Wuhan had a 70-day lockdown. Awareness and education both are needed. Also, people need to be disciplined. There are a lot of practical issues. How can you enforce social distancing among the poor? Our numbers are increasing and instead of extending lockdown we are talking of unlocking—isn’t that an irony?”

Dr Rai said: “The National Task Force does not seem to think so. I have been emphasizing that corona will not enter your house till the time you step out. Having said that, our government started the lockdown at the right time. Now people also need to know the heavy price they have paid for the lockdown and not lose the benefits of that. What’s the hurry in opening salons?”

Jindal said: “If restaurants and shopping malls are open with social distancing, what’s wrong with that? At liquor shops too, if social distancing is maintained, it’s okay. The government makes a good amount of tax through liquor, let’s not ignore such facts. We are not in the position to keep the economy shut down for long. We need to spread the word. It’s not good to look at only one thing and ignore the other issues. You cannot ignore the economic angle.”

Dr Bhargava said: “Lockdown helps to control the number of patients so that health infrastructure does not go haywire.”

 

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