India Virus Outbreak (La Presse)

Coronavirus Scare Hits India

Coronavirus has cast its spell on the famous Holi festival of India and has taken the sheen off the annual festival that falls on March 10. With the number of positive coronavirus cases jumping to 31, the President of India, Prime Minister, Home Minister, and other Cabinet ministers have decided not to host the traditional Holi gatherings.

What is Holi?

Holi is a renowned festival in India, but in the wake of Coronavirus, all the dignitaries have decided not to participate in any ‘Holi Milan’ celebration this year. They have appealed to avoid public gatherings and take good care of themselves and family. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Experts across the world have advised reducing mass gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Hence, this year I have decided not to participate in any Holi Milan program”.

While the government has stepped up screening measures, coronavirus — which has caused over 3,000 fatalities as it spreads across the globe — has adversely impacted the Holi festival that falls on March 10. Families across the nation are reluctant to participate in the Holi celebration and canceling parties. Big wholesale markets wore a deserted look despite no dearth of colors and pichkaris (water guns). Due to various rumors circulating in social media, Chinese goods are at the receiving end and demand for Chinese colors and pichkaris in Holi markets has nosedived, as customers are boycotting use of such products.

US Intelligence Agencies Concerned

It is worth mentioning that US intelligence agencies have expressed concern over India’s ability to handle an outbreak. The agencies observed that high population densities can expedite the spread of the virus and become a major outbreak. Rumors on social media and positive cases of coronavirus in India have set the cat among the pigeons in India. While travel advisories, screenings in airports, and secluding suspected cases have helped in preventing the outbreak of the virus in India, yet panic spread as the number of virus cases in India jumped to 31.

Although the government is claiming India is well prepared to tackle Covid-19, many people are not willing to buy the government’s argument. According to experts, the poor medical infrastructure, high rates of kidney disease, high number of diabetics – 77 million, and the co-existence of other non-communicable disease epidemics might make it difficult to contain the coronavirus spread in India, and the outbreak could lead to protracted treatment and higher morbidity.

Briefing the upper house of Parliament — Rajya Sabha — on coronavirus, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that there is no need to panic, as the situation is being monitored by the ministry and the PM daily. The minister informed that out of a total of 29 cases, three are from Kerala who has been released after cure. Harsh Vardhan informed the Rajya Sabha that so far approximately 611,176 passengers have been screened at different points up to March 4, 2020.

Impact of Coronavirus: ‘Keep Our Children Away from Chinese Items’

Several apartment owners’ associations, resident welfare associations (RWAs), traders’ bodies, and social groups have canceled ‘Holi Milan’ programs and have appealed to residents to avoid large gatherings.

Sanjay Singh, a resident of Karol Bagh, Delhi said, “Instead of buying new Chinese pichkaris, we will use old pichkaris, but we will keep our children away from Chinese items.”

Heads of event organizing companies are informing customers that there will be no pool parties and rain dance, as they don’t want to risk anyone’s life. Amar Agrawal, a trader, said that the demand for organic and herbal colors has almost doubled for this year Holi.

Medical Experts Weigh in on Coronavirus

 However, some medical experts are positive and believe that summer temperatures in India will neutralize the virus. As temperatures start to rise in India due to the onset of the summer and touch 30 degrees by March 15, the country is likely to be comparatively safer from the fatal grip of the virus. Scientists argue that even the earlier epidemics like SARS, MERS, Ebola and yellow fever, which killed scores of people across Africa, Asia, and America had a minimal impact in India. Therefore, coronavirus may not spread as rapidly in India as they did in colder countries because high temperature could be making it difficult for viruses to survive.

Meanwhile amidst the gloom, the Indian government has declared that all government, aided, private, MCD, and NDMC schools in the national capital Delhi will remain closed until March 31 to prevent the possibility of coronavirus spreading among children.