The coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold in India, with numbers now exceeding 100,000. Maharashtra has become a focal point of the epidemic, harbouring around a third of India’s overall coronavirus burden.
According to Al Jazeera on May 14th, “about a third of India’s 71,865 confirmed virus cases, and nearly forty percent of its 2,415 deaths, have been reported in Maharashtra, the coastal state in the centre of the country that is home to Bollywood, a huge agriculture industry and India’s largest stock market.” These numbers have since risen sharply in just a few short days, with 102,287 cases and 3,169 corresponding deaths within the country.
The coronavirus curve was described last week by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as relatively flat, claiming in its daily briefing that a peak in cases “may never come” if work is done collectively. “During lockdown and containment activities, we have been able to control cases relatively,” said Health Ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal.
Yet since that statement was made, India is seeing a trend of consistently increasing daily case numbers mimicking the disease onset witnessed in many European nations as well as in the United States. If these trends are recreated in India, it is likely that cases will continue to rise considerably, before reaching a plateau.
Despite numbers surging, both within Maharashtra, across the country, and indeed globally, many individuals in India’s financial centre have criticised lockdown measures as potentially having a greater effect on lives than the virus. “It’s a huge impact,” Gurcharan Das, the former head of Procter & Gamble in India, said of the state. “I think the default position should be to open, and you only lock down by exception, because eventually I fear that the cost of the lockdown will be far greater in lives even than the disease.”
The situation has presented a unique challenge in terms of controlling the disease, with the Union Government already debating measures to remove the quarantine. In the face of an upward trajectory of cases, however, this may be ill-advised — at least until case numbers reduce.
The quarantine has come with its own ill-effects — vast numbers of job losses, homelessness and starvation. “People are out of money, what about them? Where will they go? People need cash at this moment,” said Ritu Dewan, vice president of the New Delhi-based Indian Society of Labour Economics. In Maharashtra, as well as the rest of the nation, people are suffering under the quarantine. However, when the alternative at the current time is to allow the coronavirus to run rampant, it is likely the lesser of two evils.