Focus on health and economics

Gomantak times
Tuesday, 10 March 2020

The number of new cases reported outside of China in the previous 24 hours was roughly 80 times higher than cases reported inside China — more than 3,600 new cases, the report says. The novel coronavirus has infected more than 108,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,800.

The Coronavirus which first originated from Wuhan province of China is now rearing its head all over the world. The number of countries and territories with confirmed cases of novel coronavirus has surpassed 100, according to a report Sunday by the World Health Organization.

In the 24 hours prior to the report, eight places reported their first cases — including Bulgaria, Costa Rica and the Maldives. Sunday’s report also marked the first time the number of daily cases in China fell below 50 since the early days of the outbreak.

In India, the number of positive cases is 45 now. There is a lot of anxiety everywhere. The good news is however that half of the COVID-19 positive cases have recovered. India and the world have seen such pandemic outbreak before too. H1N1 (Swine Flu) is one such example.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates show that swine flu infected nearly 61 million people in the United States and caused 12,469 deaths. Worldwide, up to 575,400 people died from pandemic swine flu. India had reported 937 cases and 218 deaths from swine flu in the year 2014. By mid-February 2015, the reported cases and deaths in 2015 had surpassed the previous numbers. The total number of laboratory-confirmed cases crossed 33,000 marks with the death of more than 2,000 people.

India has the experience of dealing with H1N1, which is still infecting people. This is the time for the Indian government to put all its focus on dealing with COVID-19, putting the economy back on track do away with its anti-Muslim obsession.
Already reeling under blunders like demonetisation and hastily introduced GST, the protests and violence related to the citizenship law CAA and NRC, the country’s economy is spiralling out of control and hurtling towards severe depression. The outbreak of COVID-19 couldn’t have happened at a more wrong time. In the last two days of market meltdown investors' wealth worth, Rs 10 lakh crore has been wiped out, BSE data showed.

Time is ripe for the Modi government to stop the repeated blunders it is making. Precious time is being lost for putting the country’s economy back in order. The GDP has plummeted from 7.7 per cent in January 2018 to 4.7 per cent in January 2020. This is not the time to persist with disastrous decisions like CAA, instigating Muslims and causing riots.

Industry production should be revived. Demand for goods and services should be generated to get the economy moving. For that, the government has to slash the GST and IT slabs further so that the costs reduce and the consumer has more money in his pocket. The food inflation has skyrocketed from 1.1 per cent in April 2019 to 13.63 per cent in January 2020.

Government has its work cut out. The coronavirus is going to impact the economy in a big way. The recent communal violence in Delhi has turned four rich Muslim countries against India, European countries have already upped the ante. This is bad news from FDI point of view. Now the travel ban on international travellers due to coronavirus means there won’t be any immediate business meeting and dealings. A lot will hinge on the domestic market to revive the economy. For this, the Central government has to work on a war footing and involve all States.
Enhance and streamline GST collections, share the collections with States in time and don’t discriminate between BJP and now-BJP States. This is not the time for playing petty politics. Prime Minister Modi has to sideline Home Minister Amit Shah and focus on country and not his vote-bank.

Apart from the economy, the government must focus on strengthening the health infrastructure. More testing labs, a stronger surveillance system of all kinds of travellers, not those coming by air. There has to be more foolproof quarantine centres, equipped with necessary medicines. There should be adequate stock of antibiotics to control the virus. Thankfully there has been no COVID related deaths. But once it happens, there will be a panic situation everywhere.

Modi government must take stock of the situation with the States and make a comprehensive plan to tackle COVID-19. There should not be a repeat of the H1N1 pandemic. For that, the establishment has to look towards the big picture. Hate mongering is not the solution for the country dealing with multiple challenges. Rise above the occasion to meet the multitude of problems facing this vast country, having a huge population and a large food bowl.

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