The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced the central government’s nationwide lockdown for 21 days in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Modi ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks starting Wednesday.
While addressing the nation through television on Tuesday, the prime minister said, “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes. Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown from Wednesday midnight for 21 days.” This announcement gave Indians less than four hours’ notice before the order took effect at 12:01 am. Earlier also, on 19 March 2020, the prime minister implored all citizens of India to observe a self-imposed ‘curfew’ from 7 am to 9 pm IST on Sunday, 22 March 2020, to help reduce the community spread of the coronavirus disease in India.
Lockdown – A need of the hour
Though the number of reported coronavirus infections in the country is relatively low compared to other nations, including Italy, the United States, Europe or China, if the situation is not kept under control, it would lead to a disaster far bigger than anywhere else.
The total number of reported cases in the country till today is 562, and 10 deaths have been reported due to pandemic. The prime minister also stressed that ‘social distancing’ is the only way to control the spread of the highly contagious infection. He said, “Today India is at the stage where our actions today, will decide to what extent we can bring down the impact of this disaster. If India does not handle these 21 days well, then our country will go backward by 21 years.” According to him, the 21-day lockdown is very necessary to break the chain of coronavirus pandemic.
Disruption in the pharma supply chain
The prime minister also mentioned in his address that during the period of lockdown, goods and services would keep on running. However, the ground reality is a bit different. The 21-day lockdown is hindering the availability of essential goods and medicines across offline and online channels. On the other side, India’s pharma companies are in a panic mode and fear drug and ingredient shortages, as the nationwide lockdown has led to disruption in the supply chain of medicines. According to a report in the Economic Times, there have been instances where policemen on duty are restricting people and goods from reaching their intended destinations. In addition, the restriction on public transport and private vehicles is making it tough for workers to reach manufacturing plants. The reduced number of the workforce at the production plants is, in turn, impacting the production of essential drugs and other healthcare utilities.
Major stakeholders in the pharma and healthcare sector told the Economic Times that they were facing issues getting materials necessary to run manufacturing plants (for example, coal, packaging supplies, raw materials, and more) at the right place as the vehicles are being detained in transit. The workers are finding it difficult to reach their workplaces as they are not getting transport. Some reported that they could not lift their materials as it required individual permissions from the government.
The situation is tough for everyone at this moment, but there is hope that the need will generate new ideas to tackle these problems in the supply chain and facilitate the smooth flow of essential goods.