AS NARENDRA MODI went ahead boldly where Imran Khan prevaricated and hesitated, India's move to clamp a nationwide lockdown to keep 1.3 billon people inside their homes today elicted praise from the New York Times which argued that President Donald Trump must do the same and the United States should immediately have a lockdown.
"Coronavirus Is Advancing. All Americans Need to Shelter in Place. The worst of the pandemic is yet to come. Listen to the medical experts. It’s time for a national lockdown," the New York Times Editorial Board wrote on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
"On Tuesday, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, ordered a "total ban” on leaving home for the population of 1.3 billion, for the next three weeks," the NYT said, adding, "President Trump needs to call for a two-week shelter-in-place order, now, as part of a coherent national strategy for the coronavirus to protect Americans and their livelihoods."
"A nationwide lockdown is the only tactic left to parry a viral adversary that is constantly on the move, and to buy the time for medical workers to prepare for what comes next," the NYT said.
The opinion of the NYT editorial board carries massive weight in decision making circles in the US and around the world. The editorial board is a "group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom."
The NYT quoted Modi's words -- "If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country will go back 21 years.” -- and said the country "has passed the point where aggressive, targeted efforts at tracking and containment...have a realistic chance of success."
It said "the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come" and Washington's response has been "slow and spotty" that "allowed the virus to spread to every state."
It said the Trump administration's patchwork approach and the absence of a national plan have proven inadequate.
"The coronavirus can spread so quickly that to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, the restrictions need to be sweeping, they need to be uniform across jurisdictions and they need to be put in place now," it said.
The NYT, quoting researchers at the Imperial College London, expressed fears that "upward of two million lives could be lost" the the US alone, unless America somehow manages to "flatten the curve.”
It said Trump must go in for a lock down, and governors of various states should take a cue. This, the NYT said, will give more time "to develop palliative treatments, and more time for the federal government to order up the test kits and ventilators needed nationwide. There will be more time to gather data about which regions, and which people, are most at risk."
Incidentally, the US president does not have any powers to order a complete lock down, and the NYT Editorial Board said it was not making a case to give such powers to the White House.
"We are not suggesting that Mr. Trump has the authority to order a national lockdown, much less advocating that he attempt to enforce one. Instead, we are urging him to use the bully pulpit to put pressure on, and provide political cover for, governors to take the hard steps that are needed," it said.
The president "needs to be pursuing even more drastic measures," the NYT said, and recommonded the Modi formula: "He should announce that, within 24 hours, all nonessential businesses should be shut and residents directed to remain in their homes except for vital trips out, such as to obtain food or medical care."
"All this may seem like an overreaction to a health crisis that many Americans aren’t yet feeling. But though it has already wasted time and opportunities to contain the coronavirus, the United States still has a chance to apply hard lessons learned by China, Italy and other nations," the NYT said.
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