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#LockdownAMA: 10 Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19, Answered by News18


Last Updated: April 01, 2020, 17:36 IST

Members of a voluntary organisation wear protective gear before distributing food to people in Mumbai on March 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Members of a voluntary organisation wear protective gear before distributing food to people in Mumbai on March 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

On Wednesday, four journalists from News18 went live on Instagram to answer such questions and clarify doubts about COVID-19.

In India, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has crossed 1600 while the death toll stands at 38 for now. The novel coronavirus has claimed over 42,000 lives globally and affected close to 9 lakh people.

On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown for a period of 21 days, till April 14 in an attempt to contain the virus.

Given the dire circumstances, there are a thousand questions on our mind. What happens when the lockdown ends? Will the lockdown be extended? How to cope with the mental pressure of being quarantined? How will the coronavirus outbreak affect the economy?

On Wednesday, four journalists from News18 went live on Instagram to answer such questions and clarify doubts about COVID-19. In a candid 'Ask Me Anything' session, hundreds of News18 viewers tuned in to our live session and put forth questions that many of you may also be having.

1. How to cope with mental health during the coronavirus lockdown?

First, we should all understand and accept that this is unusual, and we're all in this together. You are not alone. There are therapists out there who are conduting online sessions. They all agree that mental health is going to take a toll, especially if you already deal with depression or anxiety. They suggest a number of coping mechanisms: Reach out. Call your friends. Develop a routine. Give journaling a try. Cook. Paint.

Remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health. And if you have to take care of your mind. So, this may be a time for social isolation but it does not mean mental or emotional isolation. Reach out to friends, family regularly. Be empathetic, this is the time we should show a lot more kindness that we usually do.

You an read more on what meatal health therapists have to say, here.

2. What impact will the coronavirus outbreak have on the job market and economy in India?

Even after the Coronavirus scares settles in India, close to 13.6 crore jobs may be at risk. Industry body CII said that more than half of the tourism and hospitality industry can go sick with a possible loss of over 20 million jobs if recovery in the industry stretches beyond October 2020.

The script is similar in many other services industries, in manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors such as construction. Lower growth because of falling demand and supply constraints would not only make fresh job creation tougher, but also hurt those who are currently employed. 13.6 crore non-agricultural jobs are at immediate risk, estimates based on National Sample Survey (NSS) and Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) data suggested.

These are people who don’t have a written contract and include casual labourers, those who work in non-registered nano businesses, registered small companies, and even the self employed.

3. What are the chances of the lockdown being extended in India?

There has been no communication from the government saying that the lockdown would be extended. In fact, Press Information Bureau has dismissed reports claiming that government will extend the lockdown, once the current 21 day period ends.

But it would be fair to assume some limitations of movement and gatherings will continue. The mantra of social distancing is here to stay for sometime. since this is an unchartered territory for everybody, the decisions would be dynamic in nature.

4. What is the testing protocol for COVID-19 in India? Also, why isn't the government testing for the whole country?

As per India’s initial testing strategy, anyone with a history of travel to high-risk countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Iran and Italy and those who have come in contact with a person who has already tested positive will get tested. The national testing strategy was framed by Indian Council of Medical Research based on the recommendations of a national task force.

On March 20 it was revised and it expanded the scope of the testing strategy to all symptomatic health care workers, all hospitalized patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (fever AND cough and/or shortness of breath) and asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case. Thus, if you have a common cold or cough, you may not be instantly tested.

5. Is the economic relief package offered by the government enough?

Economists welcomed the intention behind the package but felt that the funds may not be enough. Especially in terms of wage increase for MGNREGA workers and farmers. Land owning agricultural workers were anyway entitled to get the money that will now be transferred to their bank accounts. There was no additional allocation. States were also paying more to MGNREGA workers than what has been promised by the Centre.

However, the promptness with which the government is executing the plan is worth noting. There were reports which said that many have already started receiving thee promised amounts in their bank accounts.

6. Which sector has been affected the most owing to the lockdown?

The tourism industry is going to be the worst affected.  The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry. Asia is expected to be the worst affected. Once the outbreak is over, it could take up to 10 months for the industry to recover. The tourism industry currently accounts for 10% of global GDP.

7. Does coronavirus affect a person only once?

The chances of recurrence are low based on available evidence and instances of cases from across the world. There have been sporadic cases where a person who contracted the infection twice. One such case was found in Japan in late February. The Osaka Prefectural Government said Wednesday that a woman in her 40s from Osaka tested positive for COVID-19 after what appeared to be a recovery earlier in February.

However, experts said it is soon to conclude that it can recur with regularity.

8. Can Coronavirus spread through stray dogs and cats? Can it spread through insects?

No. The novel Coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 infectious disease cannot spread through insects, stray dogs and cats or house pets. Respiratory transmission is the primary and dominant mode of transmission and it is an infection that spreads through droplets when a person sneezes or coughs. That is the reason people have been advised to maintain social distancing of 1 metre or more because sneeze and cough droplets and micro particles do not travel more than a distance of a metre or more.

9. Will this lockdown increase domestic abuse?

Yes, in most probability. It's a scary thought but we all know that in India, most abusers are known to the victims. That essentially means abusers often are within one's own home, living under the same roof. At this point, when women are locked down their privavcy is very limited. The abuse is likely to increase, but what's more a scary thought is that the limited resources women will have at their disposal given that the police is already overstretched to strictly impose the lockdown.

There are helpline numbers available. The UP police has recently started a separate helpline number to specifically deal with such cases at this period of time. The National Commission for Women is also encouraging women to email them instead of posting letters, because going out is obviously not an easy option.

But this means we all need to be mindful of our surroundings. If you notice violent behaviour from your neighbours, report to the police.

10. Is hospitalization mandatory for coronavirus? Or is self-quarantine enough?

With regards to hospitalisation, those with symptoms have to place a call to a government helpline (depending on the state) and a medical team is supposed to come and check the symptoms. However, hospitalisation is decided based on mildness or severity of symptoms. If a person has mild symptoms and has tested negative, they can be simply put in a quarantine in a hospital or they can also be recommended home isolation. But they have to be monitored closely. A person who tests positive and has advanced symptoms has to be admitted to an isolation ward.