After more than two months under the world’s harshest lockdown, since June 1, India has started to “unlock”.
However, this national unlocking has been accompanied by a large number of local lockdowns.
Scroll.in breaks down why this is happening and what are its implications.
Which places are locking down again?
When measured using the total number of cases, India locked down very early. India’s lockdown was also extensive, putting in restrictions that made it the world’s harshest coronavirus containment measure.
On June 1, after more than two months of lockdown, the Union government ordered that the country would begin to “unlock”. From July 1, the Union government decided that outside of containment zones, almost all activities would be permitted.
However, even as the national lockdown was getting lifted, lockdowns started returning for many Indians in the form of local measures.
From June 28, Guwahati city went into total lockdown, with even grocery stores closed. Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram was locked down from July 6. Patna locked down from June 10 while Maharashtra’s Pune started three days later. Bengaluru took a similar decision effective from July 14. Kolkata meanwhile declared a strict but partial lockdown which would apply only to containment zones.
Till now, big cities have been the principal hotspots of India’s Covid-19 outbreak, which would explain why so many urban centres have taken action. However, local lockdowns were not limited to them. In Bihar currently, apart from the capital Patna, as many as 10 districts either have a total or partial lockdown. The entire state of Uttar Pradesh decided to lockdown over the weekend – from 10 pm on Friday to 5 am on Monday.
According to Mint, around a third of the Indian population is now affected by these local lockdowns.
Why are places locking down even after Union government lifted the lockdown?
The biggest reason is, of course, a significant rise in cases. India has seen the number of daily cases go up steadily ever since it ended its national lockdown.
As of Sunday, the country had nearly 8.5 lakh cases with the number increasing by 28,637 in the past 24 hours – the largest ever single-day rise. India is now the world’s third most affected country, after Brazil and the United States.
Part of the reason is also to do with the nature of this rise. In Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, an increase in cases was accompanied by the fact that authorities were unable to identify the source of these new infections – pointing to local transmission. This means infection was spreading through local communities rather than being brought in from outside by travellers.
This rise in local transmission comes even as most states in India have abandoned contact tracing – the identification and isolation of people who might have come in touch with a Covid-19 patient so as to break the chain of infection.
To make matters worse, there seems to be an inadequate understanding of social distancing amongst people – which means any unlocking becomes risky. In the town of Kashipur, Uttarakhand, for example, a lockdown was imposed after a wedding celebration led to a sudden rise in cases.
Is India’s new local lockdown strategy followed anywhere else?
It was actually India’s total national lockdown that was unusual. Local lockdowns, either by state or city, were popular across the globe. In the United States, for example, lockdowns decisions are taken at the state level.
On July 3, the United Kingdom saw its first local lockdown with the city of Leicester shutting down. A similar strategy is followed in China, where cities and towns are locked down in case of a surge in cases.
What will be the economic impact of these localised lockdowns?
One of the principal reasons India came out of lockdown was the economic destruction it was causing. While localised lockdowns allow economic activity to function in areas that are not locked down, the connected nature of the Indian economy means that there is still an all-India impact.
“The disruptions in one state have a trigger effect on the other markets as well, since there is interdependency in terms of labour and other supplies,” Vimal Kedia, chairman and managing director of Manjushree Technopack, a major packaging company told the Economic Times.