India and its Lockdown experiences

India decided to go on lockdown on 24th March when the number of cases of COVID19 patients stood at 200. For the first time, the Indian government took a step proactively to save lives and save the country from a pandemic. It was amazing when many of the western countries were debating lockdowns India had already done it.

So India did exceedingly well on the step one of the processes of containing COVID19 infection. But what followed the lockdown has exposed the deficiency in the Indian healthcare system run by both the central govt and the state govt. The second positive step was India slowly became a big manufacturer of PPE kits for healthcare workers. Given what was happening in Europe and the USA, it was deemed prudent India needed complete lockdown to tide over the crisis.

Today I will just focus on the lack of planning and failure of the govt and the elephant of a bureaucracy. The health bulletins by the Ministry of Health in India have been shambolic, to say the least, and from April end have been infrequent. In times of crisis, you would assume the government would be communicating on a regular basis. I currently live in Australia and have seen daily press conferences by the Prime minister, the health minister, and the Chief medical officer followed by the state premier, health minister, and chief medical officer. They are there not only to rattle off random numbers but also to take questions from the journalists and allay concerns of the public. While in India the PM chooses a televised address or a radio show to communicate while the health Minister randomly appears for press conferences.

The major mistake was a lack of testing. In India, the ICMR was made the nodal agency and it was thought that an agency led by doctors would do amazing. The government didn’t take into account the fact that a) it was run by doctors and b) They have no experience in administrative matters and how to cut through the bureaucratic clutter. Not once did I see a committee of epidemiologists being created by the government to model the disease spread. ICMR failed to stockpile enough testing kits or enable Indian manufacturers to get accredited testing kits and production up on time.

The first 25 days of the lockdown India was conducting barely 10000 tests a day. And even in the first week of May, there was a backlog of samples to be tested which stretched to 5-6 days. And now we are seeing an explosion in the number of cases. ON a daily basis we are getting 5000+ cases when we are almost 55 days into lockdown. It is clear we are in the community transmission phase of the disease but the Government refuses to use that term in any of the briefings. The govt. has decided to relax lockdown rules because the economy is in doldrums and it has caused a great humanitarian crisis in India which I will cover later.

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