K Chandrasekhar Rao extended the lockdown in Telangana till 29 May. The Telangana chief minister’s announcement was accompanied with assertions that barring Hyderabad, the rest of the 32 districts were getting back to normal. KCR also claimed that Telangana had succeeded in flattening the curve to a large extent and “would crush it”.
The question then arises that if Telangana, as the numbers show, is reporting far less numbers than immediate neighbours like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh or even Tamil Nadu in the deep south, was it necessary to extend the lockdown till 29 May?
What could be the real reason?
1. The government is worried that if lockdown is lifted in the middle of Ramzan, it could lead to a situation where the police find it impossible to ensure social distancing in public places. The week before Eid usually witnesses Friday prayers and shopping in the Old city area of Hyderabad, where it is next to impossible to find space to put a foot. This Ramzan and Eid, KCR has advised Muslims to avoid hugging and pray at home.
2. There is no clear exit strategy in place and in such a situation, lockdown is the new status quo. The opening of the wine shops, construction industry ensures a calibrated approach and the response by the public to this guarded re-opening would dictate the future response of the administration. KCR would not want a situation where there is a sudden spurt in the number of cases, if lockdown is indeed relaxed significantly.
3. Telangana’s meagre testing numbers has left many, including doctors, in doubt if the state is doing the right thing. Andhra Pradesh has tested over 1,25,000 samples so far, Tamil Nadu has tested 50000 more than Andhra. But KCR’s Health ministry has tested in the 20000-range. Are we reporting fewer cases only because we are testing less, is the question. Is the flattening of the curve merely a statistical flattening?
4. Hyderabad has seen an exodus of migrants from Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and many other north Indian states, most of them moving out on foot. Though the government has now begun operating trains, a significant relaxation could lead to a majority of this 6 lakh migrant population putting enormous pressure on the already stretched administration. A lockdown ensures the law of the land is empowered to ensure physical distancing.