If India, with its brittle economy and even weaker healthcare infrastructure, is to survive the current Coronavirus pandemic without complete social, economic and physical breakdown, it will require drastic, radical and – most importantly – timely measures that are commensurate with the scale of the crisis. These measures must protect our people, in particular the most vulnerable – including the elderly, the sick and the poor – and the most vital of all – the informal workers – the backbone of the Indian economy.

While the current focus is understandably on health responses and social distancing, we cannot separate the health risk from the economic risk to working households. Indeed, both have a direct impact on the health of households. Workers fearing job retrenchment, working without economic and social support, and worrying about how to feed their families and earn an income, cannot, even if they wanted to, practice social distancing and responsible health practices. These are not choices they can make.Their social and economic conditions do not allow them the privilege of social distancing. Therefore, a comprehensive response to the pandemic is one that has is rooted in both physical distancing and infection control with increased social protection and economic support to workers.

We cannot afford to act with indecision or to limit our imagination. All the old certainties and beliefs we had followed for years are being put into question. Countries like Spain have nationalized all healthcare facilities overnight and even capitalist economies like the US are talking about instituting universal basic income to support people in this crisis. We too must not waver, not get encumbered by old ways and old frameworks of thinking, and act rapidly and decisively before it is too late.

We cannot afford to act with indecision or to limit our imagination. All the old certainties and beliefs we had followed for years are being put into question. Countries like Spain have nationalized all healthcare facilities overnight and even capitalist economies like the US are talking about instituting universal basic income to support people in this crisis. We too must not waver, not get encumbered by old ways and old frameworks of thinking, and act rapidly and decisively before it is too late.