Lock Down for Virus Pandemic
- Causes and Effects in the Past and Present

Gautam Kumar Das

Overwhelmed by a sudden announcement of lock down by the government on 24th March, 2020 to combat spread of corona virus, the citizens of India of all ages and all classes gather barrage of questions about lock down that they have to face for the first time in their generation, though the people of the undivided India had to face the same lock down 100 years back for the Bombay Fever pandemic during 1918-1920. We are not at all glad to see this lock down again after 100 years gap, though the lock down is backed up by all international organizations like UN organizations, WHO etc for almost all countries globally for the same reasons of corona virus pandemic. This lock down order by the government has swiftly been transmitted to every nook and corner of the country through digital media, internet, social media, television and radio broadcasting and other government machinery. Further, misinformation too, spread faster than a virus by the social media and internet. Similarly, in 1920, verbal miking was done for Spanish flu pandemic with the indigenous local-made chonga (conical shaped pipe made up of tin) around the Calcutta metropolis by the municipality employees as the uses of loud speakers was not in vogue on those days.

The Bombay Fever or Bombay influenza, known worldwide as Spanish flu pandemic, spread between 1918 -1920, is believed to have killed up to 12-17 million people i.e. about 5% of the population in India, the most fatalities among all countries. The Spanish flu pandemic broke out in Bombay in June, 1918 with one possible routes via ships carrying troops returning from the First World War in Europe. The outbreak most severely affected young people of the age group of 20-40, with women, particularly young widows suffering disproportionately, though historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty this outbreak’s geographic origin, with varying views as to its location as per available records during the British era.

The source of present days corona viruses that results COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is still unknown. Climate change and global warming might have a significant influence for the corona virus outbreak in 2020. Deforestation and changing land-use patterns can reduce the extent of the forest ecosystems and accelerate disease transmission from wildlife to human beings. But the US Secretary of State claimed there is enormous evidence the corona virus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory, but did not provide any of the alleged evidence, though he later adds - there is significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan. But when he was reminded that US intelligence has issued a formal statement noting the opposite that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not man-made or genetically modified - the US Secretary of State replied - ‘That’s right. I agree with that.’

During the Bombay Fever pandemic in 1920, the British colonial government faced a severe miserable condition, even the outbreak had a significant influence in the freedom movement in the country. Even the leader of the India’s independence struggle, Mahatma Gandhi was also infected by the Bombay Fever virus. The health care system in the country was unable to meet the sudden increase in demands for medical attention. The consequent toll of death and misery, and economic fall out brought about by the pandemic led to an increase in emotion against colonial rule. And it is the most regretful evidences that the Sanitary Commissioner reported that all rivers across India were clogged with bodies because of a shortage of firewood for cremation. The River Ganga was swollen with dead bodies in all over India. The then administration and management were not well aware of how to deal with the deceased died after infectious diseases, so the people were contaminated much more with the Bombay Fever with the direct contact with the dead bodies.

But in the corona virus pandemic in 2020, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation authorities make sustainable plans and well manage the whole process of cremation of the deceased as the controversy erupted over the cremation of Kolkata’s COVID-19 death. The Mayor in Council, Health, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, decided two-furnace cremation centre at Dhapa grounds, a burial ground at Bagmari for Muslims and another at Topsia for Hindus. Dhapa, the municipal solid waste dumping ground, is rather suitable for cremating the COVID-19 fatalities as the area is sparsely populated.

In 2020, more than 3.5 million cases of the novel corona virus, including at least 247,000 deaths have been recorded worldwide till date, whereas, Spanish flu, lasting from 1918-1920, it infected 500 million people and the death toll is estimated to have been 17 million to 50 million, making it the deadliest pandemic in the human history. The spread of Bombay Fever in Calcutta along with all over Indian sub-continent during the period 1918-1920 was exacerbated by a monsoon with reduced precipitation and the resultant famine-like conditions, that had left people underfed and weak, forced them to move into densely populated cities. Similarly, after a decade of growth, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global economy to a sudden halt. Now the question is not whether there will be a global recession but how deep it will be - and how quickly countries can overcome it - the World Bank now envisages over the poor economic situation under lock down period of almost all the countries globally. Except the degradation of economy, outbreak of corona virus is disrupting education worldwide. Over 1.4 billion learners worldwide are affected by school closures due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Let us return to the topic under discussion i.e. lock down. The metropolis Kolkata including the entire India face lock down in three phases from 25 March, 2020 to 17 May, 2020 to combat corona virus. We, the Indians neglect lock down not maintaining the slogan for its success like stay at home, stay safe and stay healthy. Lock down means ban on people from stepping out of their homes. During lock down period, all services and shops are closed except pharmacies, hospitals, banks, grocery shops and other essential services. Lock down order in India includes closure of all places of worship, suspension of all educational, training, research institutions, closure of commercial and private establishment, suspension of all non-essential public and private transport. Lock down of 2020 is declared by the Prime Minister of India in three phases - Phase 1: 25 March 2020 - 14 April 2020; Phase 2: 15 April 2020 - 3 May 2020; Phase 3: 4 May 2020 - 17 May 2020 in order to combat the spread of corona virus outbreak in India. In the present scenario of lock down in India after announcement of its third phase of extension, the government gives relaxation in some of its public and private sectors, but the relaxation is not given by the corona viruses. And the least and the last words are to be remembered for fighting against the corona virus outbreak that India has records in losing finals for several times. 

May 23, 2020

 Gautam Kumar Das

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