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All you Need to Know About the Lockdown in India Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

India Goes into Complete Lockdown to Combat Coronavirus

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India lockdown
An Indian policeman, left and a civil defense person, second left, make people perform sit ups while holding their ear lobes, as a punishment for stepping out without a valid reason during a lockdown in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

By Anjana Pasricha

India imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown from midnight on Tuesday, banning people from leaving their homes as it scrambled to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus in the country.

Affecting 1.3 billion people, it will be world’s largest lockdown announced since the coronavirus pandemic began its march in countries across the globe.  

In a televised address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told citizens that the lockdown should be viewed as a type of curfew. “The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes; whatever happens, we stay at home,” he emphasized.

India lockdown
An Indian police, left, and a paramilitary personnel stop a vehicle during a complete lockdown amid growing concerns of coronavirus in Gauhati, India. VOA

It was his second address to the nation in a week. Pointing out that the infection spreads like wildfire, the Indian leader warned: “If we don’t handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backwards by 21 years.”

Citing health experts, Modi said, “India is today at such a stage, where our actions today will determine our ability to reduce the impact of this disaster.”

India’s clampdown comes hours after neighboring Nepal began a weeklong lockdown.  

The stakes in combating coronavirus are high for South Asia, home to one-quarter of the world’s population, many of them poor. A decrepit health infrastructure has made these countries nervous about how they will cope if the number of cases begins to spiral.

India’s official count of 482 cases and nine deaths is widely believed to be an underestimate due to limited testing that has been carried out. Experts are also skeptical about official claims that there is no community transmission so far and warn that cases of coronavirus have begun spilling from big cities where it came via people who had traveled overseas into small towns.

India lockdown
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Train Terminus wears a deserted look amid lockdown in Mumbai, India. VOA

Nepal has only reported two cases but fears the numbers could rise because thousands of migrant workers who work in India returned home in recent days.

Ahead of India’s strict clampdown, many people were seen venturing out of their homes despite restrictions that came into effect starting Sunday in place in large parts of the country, including major cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

The country has been slowly pulling its shutters down in recent days – most big companies have told employees to work from home, large gatherings are banned, shopping malls, businesses educational institutions and tourist sites are shut and even temples have told worshippers to stay away.

The perpetually crowded rail stations and airports are already virtually empty as air and train services are suspended.

On social media, most people accepted the need for the lockdown and praised the country’s efforts to stop the infection in its tracks.  

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But even as Modi emphasized the importance of social distancing to break the spread of coronavirus in the country, many pointed out that it was difficult to implement for millions of families who are often crowded into a single room in cramped urban slums.

There are also growing concerns about how tens of millions of poor people who depend on daily wages and have casual jobs will cope with the economic toll of the strict clampdown on their livelihoods. (VOA)

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The Effects of Social Distancing and Isolation

How Social Distancing Can Impact Your Mental Health

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social distancing
Mental health of many people, especially extroverts has been affected due to social distancing. Pixabay

By Dora Mekouar

Social distancing and isolation can be hard, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently pointed out during a daily briefing on the status of COVID-19 in his state.

“Don’t underestimate the personal trauma, and don’t underestimate the pain of isolation. It is real,” Cuomo said. “This is not the human condition — not to be comforted, not to be close, to be afraid and you can’t hug someone. … This is all unnatural and disorienting.”  

social distancing
Playground equipment is wrapped in crime scene tape to prevent its use as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. VOA

Experts already know that years of loneliness or feelings of isolation can lead to anxiety, depression and dementia in adults. A weakened immune system response, higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and a shorter life span can also result.

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Children who have fewer friends or are bullied or isolated at school tend to have higher rates of anxiety, depression and some developmental delays.

But when it comes to a global pandemic like COVID-19, there is no documentation to which medical experts can refer.

social distancing
A man walks past a sign advistng social distancing at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. VOA

“The studies that we have are more about forced isolation and no support,” said Elena Mikalsen, chief of the Psychology Section at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “The situation we’re in now, there’s a lot of social support … and social support is one of the big predictors of good health and mental health outcomes.” 

She adds that it is helpful that the entire world is basically in the same situation, a commonality that is leading to the rapid development of coping strategies from multiple sources, including friends, schools and businesses.

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During this period, Mikalsen is advising her patients to stay connected with people,  exercise regularly, and keep to a schedule so that everybody in the household has some sort of purpose in their day. Waiting around and worrying about getting sick can lead to increased anxiety.

A key factor driving people’s decisions on whether to isolate could come down to personality.

social distancing
A Pittsburgh Public Works employee removes a basketball rim from a court on the Northside of Pittsburgh, Monday, March 30, 2020. The rims were removed because people were not following social distancing rules while using the courts over the weekend. VOA

“Extroverts have this strong need to always be around other people. … The idea of being in a quiet place with no entertainment is extremely anxiety provoking,”  Mikalsen said. 

“Versus, you know, an introvert is perfectly happy in a tiny little room with nothing. You can lock up an introvert in a New York City apartment and have them not come out for two months and they’ll be perfectly happy.”

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Meanwhile, Cuomo told reporters that he is focusing on the positives in the current situation, like having his grown daughter, Cara, 25, working with him during the crisis.

“They’ll come for the holidays. They’ll come when I give them heavy guilt,” he said of his three grown daughters. “But I’m now going to be with Cara, literally, for a few months. What a beautiful gift that is, right? I would have never had that chance, and that is precious. … This crazy situation, as crazy as it is, gave me this beautiful gift.”  (VOA)