Akeel Rashid

How do we continue to sustain the coronavirus lockdown?

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Every one of us has got a question about the coronavirus lockdown: Is there a way to get out of it? The quick answer is: There is no way out for now but a necessity to sustain it. Speaking of which, in absence of a cure and threat of infections far from over, the response to coronavirus all over the world is stuck in the “containment stage” which completely relies on the lockdown measures. With COVID-19 cases growing steeply in the country, in this scenario, there clearly seems to be no other alternative but to extend the 21-day lockdown to slow the insidious spread of the disease. Above all, there is no data available which could suggest if the outbreak will begin to slow or it is expected to peak in coming days. While interacting with the floor leaders of the opposition on Wednesday, Prime Minister Modi suggested extension in the lockdown as he pointed out that the present situation was akin to “social emergency”. The World Health Organization’s European office also made it clear that ‘it is too early to scale back measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus’.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is not intended as lockdown strategy but it aims to stimulate cooperation between people and administration for the next phase of indispensable lockdown.

India’s preparation to announce an extension to the lockdown order should be coupled with a clear-cut explanation otherwise it can result in an unprecedented crisis. As there is no certainty about the Covid-19, it becomes necessary for the government to create certainty about its future plans as regards containing spread of the disease. The next phase of lockdown need not be just imposed but proposed first and then implemented. The current period of lockdown is arguably unplanned but since there is enough understanding both about causes and consequences of coronavirus, the lockdown can be easily planned and sustained.

Locally, not enough public inputs have been included in the measures being taken in view of coronavirus. The underlying problem is that only official version of the situation, unfolding on the ground, is being reflected in the media. For instance, the shops dealing with food items included in the list of essentials services, declared by Ministry of Home Affairs, continue to remain non-functional. It was only after people of Srinagar city complained about the scarcity of food and grocery items that district administration designated 23 departmental stores for home-delivering groceries. However, the situation is much the same elsewhere in Kashmir as people continue to face shortage of food items and nearly all of it goes unreported in the media as journalists struggle to gather information due to constraints on movement. The authorities need to take advantage of the media to keep continuously communicating with communities so as to make it sure that their measures are in sync with the needs of people. The lockdown has not led to food crisis yet but it may get us there soon, if the authorities fail to understand that there are contrasting ways of viewing the present situation.

The authorities need to spell out a multi-stakeholder plan of the lockdown now instead of offering assurances later, and by doing so it may give people a sense of preparedness. It is the job of the authorities to make greater contact with people at grass-roots level who can help them ensure better implementation of Covid-19 measures. The government seems to have initiated the process of bringing volunteers on board as this step can reduce the strain on the administration. In this regard, the National Service Scheme (NSS) University of Kashmir has deputed 3000 volunteers and 82 programs officers to assist the administration in COVID-19 management.

Disagreeing is not an issue but we should disagree in a way that it brings forth solutions and not problems because we cannot take on any more problems right now as our hands are full. It goes without saying that the cooperation between people and administration will decide the fate of J&K over the coming weeks and months.

The author can be reached at akeelsofi@gmail.com

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