The government on Friday said the lockdown, which is about to complete two months, cannot go on indefinitely and it has achieved its purpose by giving the nation enough time to ramp up the health infrastructure and raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to a question on whether relaxations allowed in the fourth phase of the lockdown, which includes partial resumption of domestic flight services, would hurtle India back to square one in its fight against COVID-19, chairman of Empowered Group One and Niti Aayog member V K Paul said the lockdown was a special effort, meant for a purpose, and it cannot continue for an indefinite time.
The government has formed 11 empowered groups to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce misery of people once the lockdown is lifted. The government imposed a lockdown on March 25 and it is currently in its fourth phase.
Paul said a large number of deaths were averted due to lockdown, which put a brake on the spread of the virus. "It cannot continue for an unlimited time and life has to return to normal as livelihoods have been affected," he said, stressing it's important to exhibit a behaviour that creates difficulties for the virus.
"Now we know what can save us, we need to be vigilant and respond accordingly," he added.
Asked whether there has been any study to get a prediction on how many more may get infected or die in the coming days, Paul said real COVID-19 virus growth trajectory "depends on mathematics of the spread of infection and also on the behaviour of community and society".
"How we respond cannot be put into a model or equation, we can only make some guesses. Hence it is difficult to predict," he said.
Paul said the virus has a nature of spreading exponentially. But after April 3 there was a steep decline and the case growth per cent dropped to 5.5 by May 13 from 15-22 per cent earlier as the lockdown stopped the speed of increase of cases, he said, adding the doubling time of the cases has now improved significantly to 13.3 days from 3.4 days before lockdown. Paul, however, cautioned against relaxing the lockdown, and said, "If we relax, virus will spread."
"The confinement of COVID-19 to certain areas has been due to the actions taken during lockdown. It prepared us for future," he said, referring to the ramping up of the health infrastructure.
As many as 1,093 dedicated COVID facilities and around 1,85, 306 beds have been prepared for treatment of COVID-19 patients. Also 2,403 dedicated COVID-19 health centres with oxygen facilities having a capacity 1,38,652 isolation beds have been readied, he said. Also Aarogya Setu is an unequalled weapon against the disease, Paul said.
"The time the nation got for preparedness due to lockdown has been utilized very well, we can now say with confidence that we will be able to face the challenge and surmount it," he said." he said.