“At this critical juncture, CII urges the strongest national steps including curtailing economic activity to reduce suffering … Healthcare and frontline workers are giving their best efforts to tackle the influx of patients, but it may not be possible to manage escalating caseloads with the present medical talent availability. We must heed expert advice on this subject — from India and abroad. Highest response measures are needed to break the chain of contagion and also use the time to rapidly build up capacity,” said CII president Uday Kotak. An office-bearer at the chamber said that CII was no longer against a national lockdown.
The switch in stance by at least a section of the corporate sector comes at a time when several experts as well as leading economists, who have advised the government in the past, are suggesting that a nationwide lockdown is the only solution to break the chain of transmission of the pandemic. India has been setting new records in terms of new infections with the country earning the dubious distinction of having over 4 lakh cases on Friday.
In recent days, health experts — from US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci to AIIMS director Randeep Guleria — have suggested a complete lockdown. Top sources told TOI that the government had refrained from a nationwide lockdown based on advice from industry captains who held detailed consultations with FM Nirmala Sitharaman a little over a week ago.
Ficci, however, maintained that what was required was a uniform set of guidelines for operating businesses across the country. “In this crisis situation, it is also important that we centralise the authority of decision making… It is also perplexing and demoralising for the industry to follow different norms at different locations,” it recently told the National Disaster Management Authority.
Both the chambers, however, appeared unanimous in suggesting that the current capacity was inadequate to deal with the rising number of cases. Ficci president Uday Shankar has estimated that at least 50,000 new ICU beds will be needed daily for 4-5 months. “To manage 2 lakh ICU beds, we will need at least 3 lakh nurses and paramedics, and 1.5-2 lakh junior doctors, to staff the additional required facilities. The pandemic is expected to last at least 4-5 months with waves to occur thereafter,” a Ficci official said.