Indian industry body urges curb economic activity to save lives
A leading Indian industry body urged authorities to take the ‘strongest national measures’ and cut economic activity to save lives on Sunday as the country battles the surge in coronavirus cases which have overwhelmed the health care system.
The rate of new infections declined slightly, but deaths continued to climb. Authorities reported 392,488 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 19.56 million. Deaths jumped from a record 3,689, bringing the overall toll to 215,542.
Billionaire Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank (KTKM.NS), said that “a measure of maximum response at the highest level is needed to cut transmission links” because building a healthcare infrastructure health will take time.
He was speaking on behalf of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), of which he is the president.
“At this critical time when the number of human lives increases, CII urges the strongest national measures, including the reduction of economic activity to reduce suffering,” Kotak said in a statement.
Hospitals have filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies are short and mortuaries and crematoriums have been flooded as the country grapples with soaring cases: more than 300,000 cases daily for more than 10 consecutive days .
Concerned about the economic impact of the shutdown of the economy, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown. At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restriction.
The Indian Express newspaper reported on Sunday that the country’s COVID-19 task force had advised the federal government to impose a nationwide lockdown.
The eastern state of Odisha and the industrial state of northern Haryana became the latest to announce new lockdowns on Sunday, joining Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal.
Other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, have imposed nighttime curfews or weekend closures.
FEAR OF LOCKDOWN
Modi said last month that every effort should be made to avoid a lockdown. It imposed strict restrictions on movement and social and economic activity last year in the early months of the pandemic and economic output fell a record 24% in April-June 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier.
The current devastating second wave has also resulted in a shortage of medical personnel. Kotak also said healthcare workers may not be able to cope with the influx of patients, given the increased number of cases, and they need to be stepped up.
International aid is pouring in.
Countries, including the United States, have shipped critical oxygen equipment, therapeutics, and raw materials for vaccine production. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday said his country would send more ventilators “very soon”.
Modi’s government has come under fire for failing to take action earlier to curb the spread and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states in March and April.
Reuters reported on Saturday that a government-set up forum of science advisers warned Indian officials in early March of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country.
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