Time to get ready for Stage 3 – editorials
The outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has meant that society has to redefine the fundamental principles that have governed it. India introduced travel restrictions and social distancing measures to ensure that the disease was restricted to those with a travel history and their immediate contacts. But the country is now at a crossroads, with an increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases. A phase is coming that experts have been warning about: Stage 3, which is community transmission. This occurs when a person with no history of travel to an affected country or direct contact with a confirmed case tests positive for Covid-19. It is an indication that undiagnosed and probably asymptomatic carriers are spreading it, and it makes breaking the chain of transmission increasingly difficult.
As India approaches this stage, expect a rapid increase in cases, an increase in deaths, and a corresponding set of tough measures. Travel restrictions have already been extended, with the suspension of operations of passenger trains, interstate buses and subway services until March 31. Several states have imposed Section 144, which restricts meetings for more than five people. There is a lockdown in 75 affected districts. Other consequences will follow. From India that restricts international flights, the rest of the world will be wary of allowing flights from India. There will be longer periods of people’s curfew. If self-quarantine measures are not implemented, legal consequences may arise. Economic activity will be even more adversely affected, affecting the poorest the most. And the burden on the health system will increase.
This is not intended to cause panic. But it is intended to prepare citizens for what awaits them. Stage 3 will require citizens to exercise a greater degree of responsibility. Social distancing must be accompanied by social solidarity and attention to the most vulnerable sectors. Employers will need to be even more responsive to their staff. Patients will need empathy, not stigmatization. And the government, even when held accountable, will need support, as it introduces more measures to fight the virus and introduce measures to minimize distress. Things can get worse before they get better. India must remain united.