Friday, March 20, 2020
Non-virus news of the day
The only big headline other than the pandemic is the hanging of the four men convicted in the infamous Delhi rape case. They were executed at 5:30 am this morning. The Telegraph has the details. Also: Indian Express live blogged the execution?!! Fair warning: the rest of Broadsheet is all coronavirus all the way through. Sorry!
EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...
The biggest news story today, explained.
PM Modi's address to the nation
The Prime Minister finally spoke on the subject of the coronavirus at 8 pm on Thursday in a nationally televised speech. It was big on empathy and explanation, but short on any major policy announcements. (Read it here or watch it here)
First, the latest tally: Number of cases worldwide: 245,612. Number of deaths: 10,048. Cases in India: 195. Death toll: 4.
The speech: The key points of the 30-minute address included a one-day curfew, the creation of a Covid-19 economic taskforce, and a list of “requests” to the nation.
The curfew: The PM announced a ‘Janta curfew’ on Sunday from 7 am to 9 pm. This will be a nationwide lockdown where no one can step out of the house—unless they are in “emergency or essential” services. Modi framed the event as a self-imposed ban—“a curfew imposed for the people, by the people, on the people themselves.”
Also part of the curfew: a request to stand outside doors or on balconies at 5 pm and “clap our hands, beat our plates, ring our bells” to salute those who have been selflessly serving others. Modi’s list of such people included not just medical, police and government employees—but also home delivery agents and the media!! The gesture is likely inspired by similar displays in Italy and Spain (watch clip here).
But just one day? Yes. He framed the curfew as a public show of “self-restraint”—and that “the experience gained from it, will also prepare us for our upcoming challenges.” Earlier in the speech, he also referenced blackout drills that were common during times of war in India. If you connect those dots, it is clear that Sunday is a trial run for a longer lockdown—if required. Point to note: Modi opened his speech by asking citizens for “your coming few weeks from you, your time in the near future.”
Point to note: The PM made clear that no one over the age of 65 or under 10 should step out of their homes for the next two weeks. And he urged companies to offer work-from-home options to all their employees—echoing a government circular directing states to enforce the same.
The economic taskforce: The COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force led by the Finance Minister will consult with all “stakeholders” and announce measures to “reduce economic difficulties.” But Modi gave no indication of what these measures might be.
What caught our eye: A reminder to affluent Indians of their privilege: “It is clear that this pandemic is deeply hurting the economic interests and well-being of our nation's middle class, lower-middle class, and poor segments. In such a time of crisis, I request the business world and high income segments of society to as much as possible, look after the economic interests of all the people who provide them services. In the coming few days it is possible these people may not be able to come to office or your homes. In such a case, do treat them with empathy and humanity and not deduct their salaries. Always keep in mind that they too need to run their homes, protect their families from illness.”
The latest scientific gyaan on the pandemic
As more data becomes available, researchers learn a bit more about this new scourge that is sweeping across the world. The latest research is a mixed bag of good/bad news. But what comes most clearly across is—ironically—the lack of clarity on what the future will bring.
The good news for India: quite simply put is this: “High temperature and high relative humidity significantly reduce” spread of Covid-19. Here are the details of the findings:
The good/bad news: People with blood type A may be more vulnerable to infection while those with type O seem more resistant, according to a preliminary study of patients in China who contracted Covid-19.
The worrying news: A new study—again based on Chinese data—shows that for every confirmed case, there are most likely another five to 10 people in the community with undetected infections. Let’s break down why that matters:
The bad news: An Imperial College study looked at possible responses to the virus, and mapped out their effects. Each has implications and a significant downside.
Option #1, Mitigation: This is where we institute policies aimed at slowing the spread—i.e. making it more manageable.
Option #2, Suppression: The aim is to stop the spread entirely. And here’s how it works:
So what do we do??? The authors of the study advocate a start-stop-start strategy.
Eighteen months? Developing an effective treatment—which is possible within 4-5 months—will also shorten that horizon. Also: “The next round of social distancing will be activated more rapidly, because officials — and the public — will be more prepared. It should also be shorter, because we can assume that most of the people who were initially infected are likely to be immune next time around.”
The bottomline: This pandemic isn’t going away any time soon. If we do nothing or too little, its economic effects are likely to be as devastating as the damage to public health. But with a disciplined, measured and focused strategy, we can all get through this.
Other virus-related news: (as if there is any other kind) includes the following:
Stuff that made us smarter: about the coronavirus:
Your daily dose of sunshine: includes the following:
Broadsheet’s Stuck-At-Home Sanity List: Stay busy, engaged and, hey, have some fun.
|Or just copy and send this link to your friends and you score some cool swag in the process:https://broadsheet.in/code/WEBSITE|
Be an Ambassador
|To connect with one another, get unique access, invites to private events,
exclusive content and much more.
|JOIN & SHARE|
|Not a subscriber? Sign up here.|