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Introduction: India is still in the second transmission stage (news)
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It originated in Wuhan, China but resulted in a global pandemic affecting 186 countries around the world and taking lives of more than sixteen thousand people. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a ‘Global Public Health Emergency’.
However, in India, the situation has remained mild as only five hundred cases have been found including ten death cases.
Balram Bhargava, the Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research stated that there have been certain signs of community transmission in some parts of the country but India has managed to stay at Stage 2 i.e. local transmission. He further stated that if the country manages to keep a similar number of cases, the country can avoid Stage 3 i.e. community transmission which is, as a matter of fact, difficult to control and can severely affect large areas.
What are the stages of its transmission?
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has stated that there are four stages of transmission of the Novel Coronavirus disease:
Stage 1 – Imported Cases
Imported Cases include those who have travelled to countries that are already affected by the virus and have come back to India.
Stage 2 – Local Transmission
Local Transmission includes those cases that are indirectly affected as they came in contact with those individuals who had a travel history to the virus-prone areas.
Stage 3 – Community Transmission
Community transmission is when a patient is not exposed to any infected person or one who has travelled to any of the affected countries yet he/she tests positive thereby affecting large areas as in cases of countries like Italy and Bangkok. In this stage, it gets difficult or even impossible to trace the source of virus.
Stage 4 – Epidemic
This is the last and in fact, the most dreadful stage as the disease takes the shape of an epidemic with no clear endpoint. China is an ideal example of this situation.
Steps being taken by India to prevent its spread
In view of the rising cases of COVID-19 in different parts of the country, the government administered certain effective measures in order to control the situation which are as follows:
1. The government banned the arrival of international passengers from countries that are members of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom i.e. the whole of the European continent but excluded the Indian passport holders and nearly five hundred international flights from and to India were cancelled.
2. All the international passengers who arrived in India were screened and passengers coming from highly affected countries like China, Italy, Iran, etc. were compulsorily quarantined for fourteen days.
3. Ministry of Health ensured that N-95 masks were made available to the public at large and also directed the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to take adequate actions against sellers charging unreasonable prices for masks and sanitizers.
4. 121 laboratories are made functional to test COVID-19. Furthermore, rapid testing laboratories were being made effective to test up to fourteen hundred samples a day.
5. All the state governments released a notification for shutting down schools and colleges as well as all the public areas including gyms, movie theatres, and malls till at least March 31, 2020. Moreover, CBSE and ICSE also postponed board exams for grades tenth and twelfth.
6. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) postponed the Indian Premier League 2020 and the Ram Navmi Mela which witnesses a crowd of nearly 15 lakh people has also been postponed by Ayodhya administration.
7. In order to promote social distancing, the government issued a detailed advisory of certain measures and notified the public about the same.
8. The government even directed the government employees to work from home and a similar approach has also been taken by the private companies to avoid the infection.
9. Lastly, a Janta Curfew was observed by the whole country on March 22, 2020, to promote social distancing.
Provisions for COVID-19 in Indian Legislation
In order to avoid the spread of the virus, the government invoked various provisions of law.
Firstly, Section 2 of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, a 123-year-old law (which stills holds good) was implemented which empowers the state governments to take special measures at times of epidemic after notifying the citizens.
Secondly, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was implemented in various parts of the country to ensure social distancing and avoid large public gatherings.
Lastly, necessities such as masks and sanitizers were declared as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 till June 30, 2020, to ensure its availability and price regulation.
Despite being the world’s second most populated country in the world, only a small number of cases have been detected in the country and India still remains at stage two of the global pandemic. As mentioned earlier, only five hundred active cases have been detected. There are high chances for India to reach stage three i.e. community transmission because of its high population density as well as a reluctance to testing.
However, it cannot be ignored that nearly 12000 tests have only been conducted so far. It is found that India is conducting only ninety tests a day even though it has the capacity of conducting eight thousand tests a day. The major reason for this limited testing is huge costs which the government has to incur which is nearly Rs. 5000 per patient. Moreover, a large number of tests will overburden hospitals.
COVID-19, being a contagious disease took a shape of an epidemic and affected almost the whole world. However, it has only had a small effect in India where the deaths still remain really low and India still witnesses only local transmission with certain signs of community transmission. Nevertheless, the proportion of tests being conducted remains low as compared to other countries which might be a reason for less number of active cases.
It is also significant that the Indian Government took various measures to encourage social distancing and curb the epidemic. It brought about various legislations for the same.
To conclude, India’s performance has been incredible provided that number of tests performed as sufficient which is probably not the case. Thus, India needs to conduct more tests to ensure that the disease is actually controlled and it remains at a safer side.
Author: Arya Mittal, from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.
Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala.