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COVID-19: Modi asks citizens to shine a light

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Confirmed cases of COVID-19 now exceed one million at the global level, as the death toll has risen to more than 54,000. 

At the time of writing, the world has confirmed 1,034,085 cases of COVID-19 and 54,458 people have lost their lives. Active cases of infections with the coronavirus number at 759,604, considering both the fatalities and the 220,023 people who have recovered. Of the 759,604 currently-infected COVID-19 patients, 95 percent are in mild condition – translating to 721,366 people. Of the remaining patients, five percent (translating to 38,238 people) are in serious or critical condition.

The confirmed COVID-19 caseload in India – where a lockdown is in place to curb the spread of the virus – numbers at 2,567 to date. Of the confirmed infections, 2,303 are active. Tragically, 72 Indians have lost their lives to COVID-19. Fortunately, however, 192 have recovered.

Shine a light in the fight against COVID-19

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting that the “Government, administration and the public at large, have together made great efforts to manage the situation as best as possible.” 

Modi referenced the mass felicitation of healthcare workers during the Janata Curfew observed on Sunday, March 22nd (prior to the announcement of the lockdown), during which Indians lauded those staffing the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 en masse. Modi said the display “has today become an example for all countries. Many are replicating it now.

“Whether it is people’s curfew, ringing bells, clapping hands or clanging plates; they have all made the nation realise its collective strength in these testing times. It has led to the deepening of the belief that the nation can unite as one in the battle against Corona. This collective spirit of yours, of the nation, can be seen manifesting itself during these times of lockdown.”

Modi acknowledged the difficulty the lockdown posed, stating “when crores of people of this country are confined to their homes, it will be natural for anyone to question what they can do just by themselves. Some people may also be worried about how they are going to fight such a big battle on their own. Many will be concerned about how many more days they will have to spend like this. 

<em><strong>Healthcare workers outfitted in personal protective equipment (PPE) in Kerala. Health workers have been felicitated en masse during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Ensuring the availability of PPE so frontline health workers can protect themselves is essential. Image credit: Javed Anees / CC0</strong></em> COVID-19
Healthcare workers outfitted in personal protective equipment (PPE) in Kerala. Health workers have been felicitated en masse during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Ensuring the availability of PPE so frontline health workers can protect themselves is essential. Image credit: Javed Anees / CC0

“Friends, this is certainly the time of a lockdown, and we most certainly are confined to our own homes, but none of us is alone. The collective strength of 130 crore Indians is with each one of us, it is the strength of each one of us. It is required for our countrymen, to from time to time, experience the greatness, majesty and divinity of this collective strength.”

In an exhortation towards hope, the Prime Minister called on Indians to “continuously progress towards light and hope. We must continuously strive to take those of us most affected, our poor brothers and sisters, from disappointment to hope. We must end the darkness and uncertainty emanating from the crisis, by progressing towards light and certainty. We must defeat the deep darkness of the crisis, by spreading the glory of light in all four directions.” 

As such, the call was issued for Indians on Sunday, April 5th to shine a light. “Turn off all the lights in your homes, stand at your doors or in your balconies, and light candles or diyas, torches or mobile flashlights for nine minutes,” Modi said. “I repeat, light candles or diyas, torches or mobile flashlights, for nine minutes at 9 P.M. on the 5th of April.”

A time for solidarity

In a time when infections of COVID-19 number at more than a million, and the death toll only continues to rise, such a gesture may seem empty. However, a show of solidarity – in a time of anxiety, depression, and panic – can serve as a reminder that countries collectively are able and equipped to rally together in the face of the COVID-19 menace. 

Such gestures do not compensate for issues surrounding testing or personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, nor do they compensate for the plight of the most vulnerable in society who experience the maximal adverse effects from the lockdown and the disease itself. Health Issues India has reported on such controversies and the suffering of those vulnerable to malnutrition and mistreatment. Yet shining a light in solidarity with one’s neighbours and countrymen can do no harm and, in fact, can do a significant deal of good. 

“There is no greater force in the world than our passion and our spirit,” Modi said as he concluded his address. “That there is nothing in the world that we cannot achieve on the basis of this strength. Come, let us come together and jointly defeat this coronavirus, and make India victorious.” Resilience of the health system is needed for this to be the case, as is sufficient protection afforded to healthcare workers, robust testing, and adherence to social distancing measures. Ensuring that the most vulnerable are cared for and not abused is vital. For the wellbeing of the country as a whole, solidarity is imperative – and when shining a light, it is vital that it is seen by the marginalised, the displaced, the poor and the hungry, and those putting their lives at risk to combat a major health crisis. That will “make India victorious.”

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