The Prime Minister's clarion call last week invoking the conscience of everyone to stay indoors yesterday was a stupendous success. "Janata Curfew" is perhaps the world's largest social experiment and the aim was to create much-needed awareness about the importance of social distancing and its impact in minimising the transmission and exponential spread of the virus in the community. This initiative is in many ways preparing the country for many more days of such self-imposed lockdown.
In order to ensure a sustained effect of social distancing over the next nine days, the government has also decided to completely shutdown 75 districts across the country where COVID 19 cases have been reported. Several states have closed down all public places.
The doubling time for COVID 19 in India is between 5 - 6 days. So, the effect of the Janata Curfew held on March 22 and the subsequent lockdown across the nation should hopefully result in a break in the transmission and a drop in the number of new cases being diagnosed from March 27 onwards.
Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and China have been able to "flatten the curve"(i.e. measures that keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers) through a robust and regimental implementation of various initiatives including social distancing.
This said, a large proportion of people in India work in the unorganised sector and cannot afford the luxury to Work from Home. For manual labourers, no work means no food. It is also an irony that those who can afford to stay at home to ensure "social distancing" have domestic helpers at their homes because they don't get paid otherwise. Also, there are many in India who live in crowded homes. "Social distancing" will be effective only when the entire community participates in this initiative. The government must ensure that the marginalised people and their financial needs are addressed on an urgent basis.
Going by the various reported instances across India over the past few days, it appears that a section of the "educated class" and the "elite" seem to be blatantly flouting basic norms to be followed relating to "social distancing" and "self-quarantine". This irresponsible attitude of going about "business as usual" will undoubtedly have a multiplier effect.
The upcoming few weeks are extremely crucial. Social distancing must be taken seriously.
(Dr P Raghu Ram is President, The Association of Surgeons of India, and is a Padma Shri awardee.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.