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Lockdown may not be enough to contain coronavirus spread in India: Rajan

“It may be hard to prevent infections from spreading,”the former Reserve Bank of India Governor said.

ET Online|
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2020, 11.10 AM IST
Raghuram Rajan
Rajan also talked about a possible second or even third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, saying all eyes should be on China to track the progress.


The lockdown in India, the largest such exercise in the world, may not be enough to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan has said.

"This is a serious concern because not only does the lockdown keep people from going to work, it keeps them at home which is not necessarily that pristine isolated place, but can also be a slum where people live together," Rajan said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“It may be hard to prevent infections from spreading,” he added saying the lockdown will create substantial hardship for the poorer sections of the society.

The state-ordered 21-day lockdown has paralysed virtually all commerce in the country and has put millions of people out of work, leaving many struggling with basic requirements like food and medicines.

India's high population density has made it more prone to the covid-19 virus sweeping across the globe. With 650 positive cases so far and thirteen casualties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered 1.3 billion residents to stay home to keep India from sliding into a disaster that could dwarf what China, Italy, Spain and the United States have faced.

Raghuram Rajan also cited the country's weak infrastructure as a hindrance to the government's covid fight, saying all resources need to be used to tackle the current health crisis.

Getting money to people without livelihoods so they have money to spend, getting food into such areas and keeping public services running would be some of the biggest challenges India faces in the next three weeks.

The magnitude of these issues will become even more difficult for a locked down India, Rajan emphasized.

Since the lockdown has been put in place, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has taken a slew of measures to ease the burden of the citizens, and to make sure no one is left behind in India's corona fight.

After first easing tax deadlines and business regulations, she also announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for poor today.

India's public health sector has been spread thin, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, with many healthcare organisations facing a severe shortage of basic protective gear and ventilator support. Modi, earlier this week, allocated Rs 15,000 crore for additional healthcare measures to fight the pandemic.

Speaking about a global fight, the former RBI chief said that confusion and lack of coordination between countries is expected. "Every country is overwhelmed, some confusion is understandable. You want to first get medical supplies for your own country before you think about the rest of the world.”

But the disease, he said, must be eradicated from all parts, or it will “come back to hit you eventually”.

He called upon rich countries to help mobilise resources to under-developed nations so that they have a fair chance to fight the pandemic. "Think of the poor countries that already start with a paucity of ventilators and are dealing with the same crisis,” Rajan said.

Rajan also talked about a possible second or even third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, saying all eyes should be on China to track the progress.

Asia's third largest economy's move to shut borders and close down businesses has also sparked fear of an impending recession. India’s equity market witnessed massive selloff, tracking their global peers. However, Rajan said it would be incorrect to compare this to the 2008 financial crisis.
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