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TEN THINGS PM MODI MUST DO TO SAVE THE INDIAN ECONOMY FROM COVID19

Arindam Chaudhuri

As India becomes becomes the country with the highest day on day growth rate of new cases in the world; Here’s a TEN POINT recommendation sheet that I have submitted to the Government of India based on the three key concepts of:

Social Well-Being, Physical Well-Being and Economic Well-Being

to tackle CoVID19 crisis, with:

  • An emergency rescue package for the economy of 15% of GDP, 450 Billion USD (against the government’s current 0.75% OF GDP, 22.5 Billion USD plan)
  • Emergency setting up of six 300 bed medical facilities in every district of India and
  • A direct transfer of Rs. 7,500 to the accounts of every poor family of 5 living in cities and Rs. 5000 to every poor family of 5 living in villages.

TEN THINGS PM MODI MUST DO TO SAVE THE INDIAN ECONOMY FROM COVID19 SUMMARY OF AN ACTION PLAN PRESENTED TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

As I write this today, on the evening of 8th of April, I have data in front of me that shows as of today at 16.3%, India has the highest day on day growth rate of the COVID19 pandemic amongst all countries in the world. So is India’s rate of doubling at 4.6 days. India is followed by Russia, Turkey, UK and USA. This means India’s 5000 cases could be 1.6 lac cases in the coming 3 weeks, by the time April comes to an end.

I start by quoting from the last few paragraphs of the latest cover story of The Economist:

“There really is a trade-off, and for America today the cost of a shutdown is far outweighed by the lives saved. However, America is fortunate to be rich. If India’s lockdown fails to stop the spread of the disease its choice will, tragically, point the other way. Wherever you look, covid-19 throws up a miasma of such trade-offs….

The bigger the crisis, the more important such measurements are. When one child is stuck down a well the desire to help without limits will prevail—and so it should. But in a war or a pandemic, leaders cannot escape the fact that every course of action will impose vast social and economic costs. To be responsible, you have to stack each against the other…

Perhaps, though, no new treatments will be found and test-and-trace will fail. By the summer, economies will have suffered double-digit drops in quarterly GDP. People will have endured months indoor, hurting both social cohesion and their mental health. Year-long lockdowns would cost America and the euro zone a third or so of GDP. Markets would tumble and investments will be delayed. The capacity of the economy would wither as innovation stalled and skills decayed. Eventually, even if many people are dying, the cost of distancing could outweigh the benefits. That is a side to the trade-offs that nobody is yet ready to admit.”

As it is extremely clear from the above lines, we need to seriously think if the Corona pandemic and it’s eventualities are worse or the eventualities of an Economic pandemic could be worse. Is the medicine really going to prove worse than the disease?

So what do we need to do? (Apart from identifying those infected and isolating them and keeping a tight vigil on those they might have come in touch with)

We need to have a three pronged strategy that takes care of

A-Social Well-Being
B. Physical Well-Being
C. Economic Well-being

 The TEN THINGS WE MUST DO NOW:

 

SOCIAL WELL-BEING
  1. We have to have a campaign, which has been unseen in India’s history, raising awareness about mandatory isolation of those with existing health conditions and those above a certain age like 60.

I also think everyone must be made aware of the ten points I had written in a recent article:

https://drarindamchaudhuri.blogspot.com/…/10-things-to-know…

  1. 2. In slums and places where big families stay in one room we have to start emergency social quarantine facilities in the nearest school buildings so that people can mandatorily shift the elders from their homes to these facilities. These facilities must have good quality free meals and amenities.

For all others where they have extra rooms in their homes, it has to be mandatory self-quarantine for those at high risk.

  1. 3. We must explain people that like flu this will affect most of us without serious damage if we don’t belong to the lot being quarantined. 0-9 age group has zero percent risk, 9-39 has only 0.2% risk and 39-49 has only 0.4% risk and this can go down with precautions.

So the fear and panic must be removed while the focus on hygiene is increased. We must explain that worldwide we have 2000 deaths daily from normal flu and from Coronavirus we are still at about 4000 and it can be reduced.

Those at highest risk (research in Italy clearly shows that 99% of those dying had previous health issues) should be self-quarantined at home or in emergency quarantine facilities set up in their localities.

PHYSICAL WELL-BEING
  1. We need to make sure that soaps and sanitizers are available in plenty and companies must be aided to start it’s production overnight and people must be explained that they can’t touch their mouth, eyes or nose even once without cleaning their hands. The poor must be provided at lowest possible cost and even free if required.

We need to make sure large scale government backed production of ventilators begins immediately. On war footing. Developed nations with 25 ventilators per 1,00,000 people are finding it tough to cope, I am certain India doesn’t even have 2.5.

  1. We must get the army out and start emergency facilities to treat those getting affected in stadiums, parks, exhibition grounds everywhere possible in every district. Every district must have at least 6 hospitals spread evenly with 300 beds in each. At least 5% of these needs must be ICU beds and an additional 5% should be isolation beds. If required government must take over private hospital beds. This way for every 3,00,000 people we would have one hospital ready for any emergency, given each district roughly has about 19,00,000 people.

We must also try to mobilize volunteers the way UK did! It keeps citizens inspired.

https://www.nytimes.com/…/e…/coronavirus-united-kingdom.html

  1. Govt must learn from case studies of Germany and South Korea where they have miraculously kept down the death rate to 0.5% to 1%. The lesson (other than exceptional existing social security based health care system) is to start mass scale testing. If we can catch at the early stage. We can save lives. We don’t necessarily need to Covid testing. Normal flu testing should be done and anyone having even normal flu should be assumed to have Corona and treated with care. The rule must be if you have Corona symptoms we assume you have Corona

Here is a NYT article that came out yesterday which says that:
https://www.nytimes.com/…/coronavirus-symptoms-tests-false-…

And I think this is a very very imp thing. Also, when one flu pandemic hits, other flu pandemics become muted. This is a proven fact. We can also think of testing those who already have antibodies, so as to make a reserve of people from whom plasma can be taken to save critical cases.

  1. Till the time we can have mass scale testing we must control the pressure on the medical staff by telling people strictly not to bother doctors and hospitals unless they have min four days of fever, unless they have are old or have an existing medical condition. This is what Japan did and successfully controlled the pressure on medical staff.
ECONOMIC WELL-BEING
  1. We must have a minimum money transferred to the accounts of those quarantined so that they can meet their living expenses. This amount should be a minimum of 7.5k per family of 5 for every poor family residing in cities and 5k per family of 5 for every poor family residing in villages – for the entire period of lockdown.

We have 60 million tones of food in FCI godowns where as just a third of that is required. So we should make sure food grains are available to all and there is absolutely no possibility of food riots.

  1. We must give businesses tax breaks and banks must give special interest free moratoriums on loans of at least 6 months to all, so that they can cope up with this emergency situation.

Additionally we must think of innovative schemes from banks to help corporations tide over their liquidity crunch.

The sum total of this direct transfer of income and corporate package must be at least 34 lac crores or 450 billion USD which is equivalent to 15% of India’s GDP instead of the current 0.75% of GDP that has been allocated.

  1. And finally we must soon try to let the rest of the economy function normally with the help of those at lowest risk.

If India’s effort is to keep the infections and deaths low, that bridge was missed long back by the WHO, which should have declared a global lockdown the day they got to know about this virus (and I think Trump has hit the nail on its head by shredding WHO to pieces… WHO totally missed becoming a globally relevant and leading institution in calling for a global lockdown).

Now that the virus is there in all countries, it would do good for India to tell its population (all) to wear masks, keep reasonable social distancing, and get back to work

Max that we can allow as a concession is odd – even working! Where half people with odd date of birth do office work on Mon/Wed/Fri, the other half with even on Tue/Thu/Sat. While it may not decrease in-office transmission, it will allow public transport (one of the major hubs of infection in developing nations, where middle and lower class significantly use this mode) to have a lower load every day and allow lesser transmission.

By following this, we will save our economy and might bring the deaths from Coronavirus down to the lowest in the world because those out in the open and contracting it would be healthy people – only the 85% who are not likely to die. Often they wont even come to know they got the virus. So they will get it and recover like they do from normal flu. We must remember Sweden hasn’t locked down its economy. They have schools open as children have the lowest risk. And if schools are open and kids are busy, parents can work freely.

CONCLUSION

Researchers are already saying
https://www.theguardian.com/…/lockdowns-cant-end-until-covi…

So do we lock down India for next one year?

Different nations are approaching it differently. South Korea and Germany as I wrote earlier have amongst the highest tests per million so they have significantly less death rates. Japan has told its citizens to not bother doctors unless they have fever for 4 days. So their cases would be very low. In one of the world’s most ageing country, Italy, the average age of people who have reported to be infected is 50+ and about fifty percent with existing health conditions… so in any case their chances of survival goes down. In China they have only recently started counting the cases, which have CoVID19 but don’t have symptoms. In India we have done only 125k tests till date, which in Germany they do as many every week. If we were to follow South Koreas test rate per million by now we should have conducted 8 million tests.

For India, as things stand, the only focus should be to safeguard the ones at highest risk and keep their environment sanitized till we discover a vaccine.

AND WE WILL SAVE THE ECONOMY FROM GETTING RUINED AND MILLIONS FROM DYING A FEW YEARS TOO EARLY.

And with the hope that medicines and vaccinations will be developed soon, I am sure this situation won’t last too long. It’s just a 6-month to 18-month inconvenience that we can conquer with commitment and intelligence.

Most likely no lockdown like the ones we have will stop it. I repeat, let’s use these lockdown weeks to make massive army driven health care facilities. In every district of India. And plan how to save India from an Economic Pandemic – which could have far worse consequences.

 

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