Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on States to consider lockdowns as the last option, many local administrations have already imposed various forms of restrictions as the number of daily Covid-19 cases near the 4-lakh mark. While these measures are aimed at reducing infections, the economic impact of the lockdown on various industries is beginning to be felt across different sectors.
For example, in rural Maharashtra, many districts are contemplating a complete lockdown, even as the State government has imposed restrictions on public movement. Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts in western Maharashtra have already announced a complete lockdown.
Similarly, several northern States, including Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, have imposed lockdown-like restrictions and curfews, while others, which had clamped night curfews or weekend lockdowns, are now bringing in stricter curbs.
For full lockdown
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday tweeted, “After discussion with the associate ministers and officials yesterday, it was decided to implement lockdown in Bihar till May 15.”
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that while he was not in favour of a full lockdown, he warned people against laxity in adherence to the new curbs and said that if the situation did not improve would be forced to consider a total shutdown.
In the South, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have brought in new restrictions aimed at curbing people movement. This comes as the cases rose in predominantly rural districts with the April tally rising 30 per cent up from 21 per cent in March
Healthcare experts said that lockdowns are the only way to deal with pandemic. Snehalata Pawar, who is involved in the diagnosis of Covid-19 patients at a hospital at Baramati in Pune district, said: “Lockdown is a must at least for now. A large number of cases is coming from the 16-25 age group. Earlier, there were mild symptoms in patients in this age group, but now we are seeing rising death numbers.”
Atul Goel, Professor and Head of Neurosurgery Department at Mumbai’s KEM Municipal Hospital, echoed the view. “Today, the lockdown has helped reduce the infection rate in Maharashtra. Therefore, a lockdown is a must for controlling a pandemic.”
However, Mathew George, Professor, Center for Public Health, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said that lockdowns have done little in preventing the transmission of coronavirus. “Lockdown is very blind. Something needs to be done hence the government is responding with a lockdown. A lockdown might work in a highly endemic location, in a small location. In case of an entire State, there are districts that are affected and districts that are not; therefore, I always suggest that the decision should be left to the local body.”
Curbs hit businesses
Even the current restrictions are impacting businesses especially small and medium units in sectors such as automobile, tourism, hospitality and manufacturing. Parth Jindal, Managing Director of various JSW Group companies, said a hard lockdown at the national level will be disastrous. “The current mechanism of allowing local authorities and State governments to take a decision based on the ground situation is the right way to go. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of last year when a national lockdown was announced.”
But Uday Kotak, President of CII, said the industry should undertake voluntary measures. He urged the industry “to curtail all non-essential economic activity requiring physical presence of employees at the workplace, for the next two week.”
Many auto majors such as Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp, JCB India, MG Motor, and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India have halted production temporarily or are advancing their maintenance shutdown in the interest of the safety of their employees.
Barclays said that India could face economic losses of $38.4 billion if the ongoing localised lockdowns continue till June. “As India’s second Covid-19 wave continues, there is growing uncertainty around the number of cases and fatalities. Slowing vaccinations are also hurting India’s recovery prospects. We lower our FY 2021-22 GDP growth forecast by 1 per cent to 10 per cent to reflect this uncertainty,” a Barclays report said.
(With inputs from Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru Bureaus)