Sensex, sports, schools: India’s spooked over coronavirus like never before

Image: AP Photo/Channi Anand
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The global novel coronavirus outbreak is pushing India towards a lockdown, spooking investors.

With Covid-19 cases in the country steadily rising in recent days, the Narendra Modi government yesterday (March 11) announced the suspension of all visas to India till April 15.

Reacting to the news, India’s headline indices, Sensex and Nifty, tanked 5% each in opening trade today.

India’s travel bans were triggered by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to declare Covid-19 as a pandemic after the global death toll rose to over 4,000. “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” WHO said in its announcement on March 11.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases in India has increased to 67.

The scare has forced the closure of schools and colleges in many parts of the country. In Delhi, primary schools have been closed till March 31, while in Kashmir and Ladakh all academic institutions will be shut till the end of the month.

In the southern Indian state of Kerala, where 14 people have tested positive so far, the government has announced a total shutdown, closing all schools and cinema halls. In neighbouring Karnataka, all educational institutions have been shut for an indefinite period.

The Indian Institute of Management Lucknow has postponed its annual convocation scheduled for March 21.

The aftermath

The cricket teams of India and South Africa will play a match in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala behind closed doors today (March 12). Late last night, the sports ministry issued directives to “adhere to the advisory issued by the health ministry in letter and spirit,” reported the Indian Express.

Now, the fate of upcoming sporting events also hangs in the balance. There is no official word on the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) yet. For now, the Maharashtra government has banned ticket sales for the opening match that was scheduled for March 29. The India Open Badminton event will be held behind closed doors in Delhi on March 24-29, The Times of India reported today.

Meanwhile, the Indian government’s travel advisory has raised concerns over the struggling Indian economy, too. However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for a return to normalcy.

Replying to a question in parliament on March 11, the government said the closure of factories in China due to the coronavirus outbreak may affect Indian industries, which import components, intermediaries, and raw materials from that country. The worst-hit could be pharmaceuticals, electronics, and automobiles, the government said.