I'm no fan of Prime Minister Modi, because he reminds me of President Trump in some disturbing ways. But his decision to institute a strict lockdown of everybody in India for three weeks is the right thing to do -- even though this is going to create a lot of hardship.
A New York Times story, "Modi Orders 3-Week Total Lockdown for all 1.3 Billion Indians," describes why the lockdown is needed.
NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks starting Wednesday — the biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced on television Tuesday night, giving Indians less than four hours’ notice before the order took effect at 12:01 a.m.
“Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown,” Mr. Modi said.
The breadth and depth of such a challenge is staggering in a country where hundreds of millions of citizens are destitute and countless millions live in packed urban areas with poor sanitation and weak public health care.
Though India’s number of reported coronavirus infections remains relatively low — around 500 — the fear is that, should the virus hit as it has in the United States, Europe or China, the consequences would lead to a disaster far bigger than anywhere else.
...In his televised address, Mr. Modi basically said there was no choice.
“If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years,” Mr. Modi said. “The only option is social distancing, to remain away from each other. There is no way out to escape from coronavirus besides this.”
...India has some of Asia’s biggest slums, and experts fear what would happen if the coronavirus spreads in a city like Mumbai, home to 20 million people, where space is at a premium and many families squeeze six or even eight to a room.
Understand: I'm not minimizing the difficulties this is going to create in India. The New York Times story talks about this, which includes the fact that Modi only gave four hours notice of the lockdown. How many Indians have three weeks of food and other essential supplies in their homes?
But the alternative is even worse, allowing the coronavirus to spread unchecked.
Here in Oregon, where I live, yesterday Governor Kate Brown announced a Stay Home, Save Lives executive order that is a much milder form of what is being imposed in India. This is a summary of that order.
We're free to leave our homes. We can visit groceries, pharmacies, restaurants (take-out only), gas stations, and other places. This afternoon I went to a UPS store to mail in a passport renewal, a pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions, and a Starbucks drive-through to cheer myself up with a decaf nonfat vanilla latte.
It felt good to get out and do some normal things, though the passenger seat of my car is filled with a N-95 mask, gloves, cleansing soap wipes, and hand sanitizer. (My wife has asthma, so we're being especially careful to avoid the coronavirus, since it attacks the lungs.)
Given that our daily life has been much different since the coronavirus outbreak in the United States became serious, I have a lot of sympathy for people in India.
The lockdown there is much more strict than what any place in this country has put into place. But again, now is the time to be as strict as possible. The longer governments wait to control an outbreak, the more lives will be lost and the more extensive economic damage will be.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump doesn't realize this, nor does Brazil's right-wing president. Trump wants to ease restrictions within a few weeks even though coronavirus cases in the United States have been rising rapidly, as have deaths. And Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is echoing Trump's idiocy.
Yesterday I wrote about the horrible thing Trump wants to do in "Trump wants people to die so he can be re-elected."
I can't believe how many times I've said, "Trump can't do anything worse than what he did today." But he does. And today was the latest example of appalling worstness.
During the daily White House coronavirus briefing, where Trump hogs the microphone while other officials cower in the background, doing their best to keep a poker face as Trump rambles on semi-coherently, our Idiot-in-Chief announced that he wants to make saving lives a distant second priority to resuming business as usual by the end of March.
Why? Well, because he doesn't want the country to be in a recession, or even depression, when the 2020 presidential election happens in November.
Of course, if hundreds of thousands of Americans, or even millions, have died from the coronavirus by November 2020, it is extremely unlikely that Trump is going to win the election. People know that lives are hugely more important than money. Money can be recovered. But death is final.
So as India suffers through the next three weeks, I hope Indians keep in mind that as bad as things will be, they would be much worse if Prime Minister Modi hadn't ordered the lockdown.