Coronavirus outbreak: Start-up entrepreneurs call for lockdown across India

New Delhi: A medic conducts screening of a patient as part of a precautionary measure for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, at a government run hospital in New Delhi | PTI photo
As the country grapples with rising coronavirus cases, start-up entrepreneurs have come up with an action plan requesting the government to impose Section 144 in major cities across the country for 14 days in order to avoid a Wuhan-like situation in the country.

The plan has been signed by over 50 start-up entrepreneurs including RedBus founder Phanindra Sama, Cred CEO Kunal Shah, Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl and Bounce founders Vivekananda Hallekere, Varun Agni, and Anil G among others. 

“The next two weeks are very crucial and we are helping the government with data points to take quick action,” said Hallekere, chief executive of bike sharing platform Bounce. “We are also ensuring that the infrastructure for isolation is managed — be it converting a hotel into an isolation centre or getting delivery companies to ramp up supply chain during the lockdown,” he added.

Gaurav Munjal of Unacademy, Abhishek Bansal of Shadowfax, and Urban Company founder too have endorsed the note. It has also been signed by several venture capitalists such as Kalaari Capital’s Chirag Gandhi and Accel Partners’ Prashanth Prakash.

The group claims that India could have between 600-2,500 positive coronavirus cases as compared to the current 137 reported in the country as learnings from Wuhan suggest actual undiagnosed cases are typically 5-20 times the diagnosed cases. It also points out that countries which have acted early and strongly such as South Korea, Singapore, and Japan have been able to bring down cases compared to those which waited and watched such as Iran, Italy and France. “Hence, while containment efforts should continue, imposing a lock-down and Section 144 now versus 30 days later might reduce deaths by 5 times,” says the note.

The action plan 

It suggests that from March 20 to April 12 there should be Section 144 across all major affected areas, businesses should work from home, and stores, schools, cinemas all should be shut down and public transport should run on a limited need basis.

In the second stage, between April 13 and May 17, the government should reassess the situation and lift off Section 144 in most if not all places. It should continue to selectively keep schools, colleges, temples and places of large gathering closed.

In stage 3, between May 18-May 31 a decision should be made to have another round of lockdown, so that there is no second peak after initial restrictions

From June onwards, government should open up everything with social distancing but monitor the situation

It urges the government to maintain a supply chain of essentials such as medicines, food and healthcare access during the lockdown period and create war rooms headed by the chief minister of each state. The group also advises scaling up of testing infrastructure by opening it to the private sector.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel