Impose strict lock-downs, impose Section 144 to combat novel coronavirus outbreak: Entrepreneurs’ note to PM

New Delhi: A group of venture capitalists and start-ups have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take decisive action and “impose strict lock-downs and impose Section 144 (to ban large gatherings) across key cities this week” to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a detailed Powerpoint presentation tweeted Tuesday evening, Abhiraj Singh Bhal, the co-founder of Urban Company (formerly Urban Clap), pointed out that countries that had “acted early and strongly (South Korea, Singapore and Japan)” were able to control the outbreak as compared to those which “waited and watched (Iran, Italy and the United States)”.
“The virus does not discriminate basis nationality – early, strong and decisive action is key to containment. Impose Section 144 and strict lockdown (citizens stay at home) across major cities for two weeks starting March 20, 2020,” the presentation said.
“While containment efforts should continue, imposing a lockdown and Section 144 now, vs 30 days later, might reduce deaths by 5x (saving nearly 10,000 lives,” it added.
The 10-slide presentation has been created and endorsed by over 50 entrepreneurs, including Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal, Phanindra Sama of Red Bus and Rohan Verzma of MapmyIndia.
The presentation acknowledged India had “started well with good containment efforts” that included closing of public spaces like malls and cinema theatres and encouraging people to work from home for social distancing.
However, warning that a second lockdown may have to be imposed, the presentation also urged the government to ensure supply of essentials, like food, medicine and money, and ensure availability of services like public transportation.
As fears over the rampant spread of the infectious illness grow and cities and public spaces go into lockdown, concerns have been raised over the impact of the novel coronavirus on the Indian economy.
The virus has had a massive impact on the stock markets, with the Sensex ending trade on Tuesday over 800 points down from the previous close. This has adversely affected investor confidence, as have the crisis surrounding Yes Bank and the crude oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Global markets have also suffered massive losses over the past two weeks.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi warned of an “economic devastation” over the next six months and cautioned the centre to think of a long-term plan to help businesses and the economy recover.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sought to ease the situation by saying the central bank was monitoring the situation and, with several policy tools at its command, “stands ready” as and when required.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak in India has infected over 140 people so far. A 64-year-old man died in Mumbai on Tuesday, taking the number of coronavirus-linked deaths in the country to three.
The outbreak is currently in Stage 2 (of 4) in India, meaning there is local transmission from infected persons; for example, from relatives or family members who travelled abroad.
The government has stepped up efforts to tackle the epidemic, including sealing borders to international traffic from severely-affected countries and suspending certain kinds of visas till mid-April.
COVID-19 originated in China’s Wuhan district in December last year and has killed nearly 7,000 people across the world and infected over 1.7 lakh people.