What should the Indian government do?
1.Recognise that this is the biggest crisis that India has ever faced. Let us not live in denial.
2.Immediately set aside Rs 2 lakh crore to tackle this crisis. Be prepared to allocate more funds. Recall that just a few months ago, the government gave corporates a tax break costing the country Rs 1.4 lakh crores i.e. Rs 1,40,000 crores.
3.Testing and treatment of coronavirus must be made free and accessible for everyone.
4.India must test, test, test to understand the extent and intensity of the crisis. "You cannot fight an enemy that you cannot see" - the approach South Korea took, immediately allowed the private sector to do tests. India must also straight away allow internationally-recognised testing kits to be used here. These are already in use in the USA and Europe (do not delay by waiting for Indian clearance).
5.Immediately allow private hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.
6.Samples (nasal and throat swabs) for testing must be carried out at people's homes. Nobody should come to hospitals for testing as the probability of infection rises even further.
7.The budget funds allocated for this emergency must be used for:
a) Giving the poorer sections Rs 5,000 a month for the next two months.
b) Reimburse private hospitals for treatment and private pathology labs for testing of coronavirus. (This is not outrageous - the government already has an insurance scheme, Ayushmann Bharat, that reimburses private sector medical treatment).
c)There is likely to be a terrible shortage of protective gear for medical staff (from masks and gloves to body suits). Import as much as possible and fund Indian companies making protective gear.
8.Utilise our huge stocks of foodgrains by distributing foodgrains free for the next two months.
9.Many businesses will shut down. Many industry sectors will be irreparably damaged. Millions of jobs will be lost. The government needs to announce a special package for saving India's industry.
10.Monitor whether India is in Stage 3 (where the community is infecting the virus to each other) by widespread testing by the Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR and order a near-total lockdown, one week at a time. Most important - be prepared to involve the Indian army.