22 March 2020

Sunday—and some history
Informal national curfew

The seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak currently spreading across the country is visible in terms of people’s awareness of the disease. The coronavirus seems to be all everyone talks about lately. But the problem with the oubreak also lies in people’s awareness or rather the lack of it: nobody cares for social distancing and nobody cares for hygiene in public.

The Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, gave a rather dramatic call for a janta curfew, a self-imposed curfew lasting all through the day. He also encouraged people to come out on their balconies at 5 pm and clap in appreciation of essential service workers helping society to make it through this outbreak. While some were responsible, most people promptly gathered in masses maintaining barely a couple of feet between one another and clapped and made conversation for at least half-an-hour.

I suspect this janata curfew is a precursor to a legal curfew. In some ways it is a clever move, in others it seems like a characteristically diabolical method to make people do the government’s bidding by making them feel like it was their own idea all along. But from a purely scientific standpoint I support its positive effects.

At 9 pm, when the self-imposed curfew ended, about 90 districts were locked down—including the one I live in—for the remainder of the month. These were the only districts where COVID-19 cases have been reported although I, like many others, suspect the true number of cases in India far exceeds the reported number which comes only from tests doctors across the country have chosen to perform.