India coronavirus dispatch: How to get the country to return to work

Here is a round-up of important Covid-19 articles from across Indian publications. From hospitals running out of beds, to fair disbursement of cash transfers, and why old age and comorbidities make people more vulnerable to Covid-19 — read these and more in today’s India dispatch.

Expert Speak

Getting India back to work — the agenda: Companies should stagger employee arrivals and attendance, and increase sanitation measures for months to come as Covid-19-related restrictions are eased, says Sangita Reddy, president of industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (Ficci). Ficci has compiled detailed guidelines for individuals, owners and the management to follow in the months to come. Read more here.

Are India’s labour laws too restrictive? Some State governments, including Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have proposed ordinances to exempt manufacturing establishments from the purview of most labour laws. Read this discussion with Amit Basole (associate professor of economics at Azim Premji Unversity, Bengaluru) and K R Shyam Sundar (professor of human resource management at XLRI, Jamshedpur) on the backdrop for this move, and what lies ahead for the country’s labour and industrial relations.

Disburse cash transfers fairly, treat returning migrants as stakeholders, not charity cases: Many of India’s estimated 120 million rural-to-urban migrant workers are still stranded in cities. The government must step in urgently since millions are determined to get home due to loss of livelihood, fear of contracting Covid-19, and lack of community support in destination states — that is, those they have migrated to. Varun Aggarwal, founder and lead, India Migration Now, a migration-focused research and advocacy organisation, explains how “we have no policy in India for returning migrants”. Read more here.


The stress of the pandemic is often robbing us of consistency: The economy is an unbelievably complex organism. One critical factor that allows it to survive and flourish is the invisible hand of the market, which enables collaboration among millions of individuals, each taking their own decision concerning what to produce, and what to buy. Kaushik Basu, former chief economist and senior vice-president, World Bank, writes that if the market is brought to a halt through excessive control, there is no way you can replace the invisible hand with the visible hand of the bureaucrat and the police, telling people what to do and doling out money and food. Read more here.

When Covid-19 hits slums: In order to ensure access and continued usage of water supply and community toilets by the urban poor, it is important to waive off user fee for these facilities, at least until the situation stabilises. In order to ensure hygiene, it is important to distribute hygiene kits comprising soaps and menstrual hygiene products to slum households.

Innovative designs of make-shift hand-washing stations and toilets should also be promoted and deployed to meet user requirements. Read more here.

Managing Covid-19

Mumbai runs out of hospital beds for suspected Covid-19 patients, starts a ‘waitlist’: While 1,750 beds were added in Mumbai in the first week of May, beds are still falling short. In the past 24 hours, 1,500 new beds have been added in the city’s hospitals, but their demand is likely to only grow. BMC officials say although enough beds were available to quarantine high-risk slum dwellers and asymptomatic infected patients, they were short of beds for critical patients who needed immediate support. Read more here.

With Covid cases nearing 100,000, India to check prevalence of ‘asymptomatic’ carriers: With the cases of infections in India nearing 100,000, the government is concerned if the absence of symptoms among carriers is making the disease more contagious and difficult to control. As of Friday morning, there were 51,401 active cases in the country and the total count was 81,970. Sources in ICMR said the numbers were based on observations and till now India hadn’t undertaken any large and formal study to ascertain the number of asymptomatic cases. Read more here.

The world must avoid the impending waste crisis being brought on by single-use PPE: For infectious clinical waste, the best option we currently have at our disposal remains incineration. During a pandemic, we can expect the demand for disposing of waste PPE to increase, so it is vital to ensure that existing facilities can cope. Read more here.

The tricky issue with knowing how many are dying from Covid-19 in India: Tracking Covid-19 deaths presents particular challenges because of how the disease interacts closely with other serious health conditions, termed comorbidities. Experts tell us that we are almost certainly underestimating Covid-19 deaths, but by how much? Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

Why old age and comorbidities make people more vulnerable to Covid-19: A group of tiny RNA — that is supposed to attack the SARS-CoV-2 when it infects human bodies — diminishes with age and in people with chronic health problems. That may explain why older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Read more here.

In less than 20 days, India cases spiked by over three times: In several states, particularly those that are receiving their people working in other states, the bulk of new cases are among those on the move in the past few days. This is true not just of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but also of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Goa. Read more here.

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