Covid-19 and India economy

Author(s): Sweta Jangra (India)

India has taken early action to limit the spread of COVID-19, ordering nationwide lockdown for its population of 1.3 billion people started from March 25th 2020. The novel coronavirus has spread widely in India relatively recently compared to other countries, and the number of reported infections are 52,952 cases with 1,783 deaths till now. However, as COVID-19 cases are increasing fast, there is great concern about the disease’s potential spread and impact.

In view of the same, testing is expanded significantly. The government shows the pattern of the spread of COVID-19 as similar to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, meaning the spread is unlikely to be uniform. After the 21-day period expired, it was planned to maintain the full lockdown in “hotspot” areas and relaxed in some places which fall under “Orange” and “Green zone”.

These measures may help in limiting the health crisis, but—as in other countries—the complete shutdown of all economic activities except essential services will be created an economic crisis and misery for the poor, with massive job losses and rising food insecurity.

The economic shock will likely be much more severe for India, for two reasons. First one, pre-COVID-19, the economy was already slowed down, compounding existing problems of unemployment, low incomes, rural distress, malnutrition, and widespread inequality.

Secondly, India’s large informal sector is particularly vulnerable. Out of the national total 465 million workers, around 91% (422 million) were informal workers in 2017-18. Lacking regular salaries or incomes, these agriculture, migrant, and other informal workers would be hardest-hit during the lockdown period.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for India as its large population and the economy’s dependence on informal labor make lockdowns and other social distancing measures hugely disruptive. The central and state governments has recognized the challenge and responded aggressively but this response should be just the beginning. India must be prepared to scale it up as events unfold, easing the economic impacts through even greater public program support and policies that keep markets functioning, along with it people must learn to live with the virus by follow prevention guidelines given by government.

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