It’s been four weeks now India has observed lockdown. As we are nearing the deadline for the observance of the nationwide lockdown, there are so many questions that grapple our conscience. While the lockdown has immensely helped in containing the mass spread of the dreadful virus, its fear has not vanished completely. In India, still there are increasing cases and death from the novel Corona virus. As of now, India has reached 17656 number of positive cases with death toll of 559 (numbers keep changing moment by moment).
If one observes the growth rate, it has reduced substantially since the lock down. Before lockdown, it took only 3.5 days for Covid19 cases to grow in India by 200 percent. For example, if number of cases were 100 on a particular day, after three and a half days, it turned 200. But now, with restrictions on movement, the growth rate has slowed down to 7.5 days. For example, if the number is 1000, it would take seven and a half day to become 2000.
However, what is disconcerting is that the number has not gone down. During the initial days, the number was less although the growth was faster. Now, the number of fresh cases reported is very high. Since yesterday, there have been 1553 additional confirmed novel corona virus cases. Thirty six deaths were reported in the last twenty four hours. Under such circumstances, the question that stands stiff is: Is there a chance of mass spread if lockdown is lifted?
The question instils fair amount of consternation. It is a fact that the pathogen is particularly contagious and takes no time to spread overburdening any robust health infrastructure. Even some of the most advanced countries like United States of America, Italy and Spain have surrendered before the disease. As per a report, in Italy the health system was so overpowered that it was a matter of choice who would die and who would survive.
In India, a timely intervention by decisive leadership in terms of a nationwide lockdown has saved many lives. Undoubtedly, the lockdown had immense role in keeping things under control. However, this is one of the many strategies and cannot be the only and finale solution. This unprecedented situation requires more of an administrative approach than medical one. A doctor would treat the already diseased person. However, what if the health system is overwhelmed? In a country like ours, where health system is already characterised by an unproportionate doctor-population at 1:1456, it would only deliver a fatal blow.
The nature of this pathogen is more of a disaster than a regular disease. Therefore, the approach required is that of a disaster management. Thankfully the Centre has already invoked the Disaster Management Act in order to tackle the migrant workers’ movement. However, still the danger looms large. So, what is the strategy ahead?
Every disaster requires three pronged strategy: preparedness, response and recovery. Preparedness requires the community to reduce the vulnerability and resist it. Response requires midterm care of the affected people. In this case, treatment of the positive cases. Recovery is the last response after the disaster is over. In this case, observation after the 14 day quarantine is over.
This particular disease requires more of preparedness than other two responses. Only then can we assure a safer future. But, is it fair to keep lockdown for longer period of time given that it causes so much of economic loss?
Given the economic cost, the Government is bound to open up the businesses and movement at one point. However, some measures can be easily taken to ensure post-lockdown safety. Unnecessary movement can be banned for a period. Necessary business dealings, official works and factory production should prevail so that production does not get affected. Mass trouble should be kept minimum. Travelling in bus, train etc brings people closer and risks contraction. Therefore, trovelling should be kept for private cars only. Those who are in urgent need of travelling, would manage travelling by a private car. Moreover, it would discourage unnecessary travel keeping in view the cost of it.
Moreover, big manufacturing and production units leave little space for social distancing. It should be made mandatory for the big factories to keep Rapid Testing Kits so that at the entrance of the work place, they can be checked. Any development at any stage would get caught instantly.
Universities now need to be flexible in terms of imparting knowledge. The rule for 75% compulsory attendance must be abolished. They can gradually open. Since a university is more of a ghettoed community, they should be kept in the closed campuses without allowing unnecessary movement. Those colleges which have less hostels or no hostel can go for digital classes.
Delivery of online goods should be allowed. However, the delivery companies should check the health of the delivery boys on a daily basis through infrared Thermal Gun or Rapid Testing Kits, in some cases both. Most online outlets have the resources for investing in such kits. The outlets should be allowed only when they follow these mandatory provisions strictly.
The mantra is to distinguish essential from non-essential, urgent from trivial, economic from unprofitable. Avoiding unnecessary and unprofitable would go a long way. Economic activities should continue with utmost caution; however, one should avoid unnecessary indulgence. Unprecedented situation demands unusual response which no book can ever teach. It is incumbent upon people to adapt to the new circumstances. Hanging around with friends, going out for a coffee or taking a vacation is not something to be suggested at this moment.
Even if some activities are continued, then also some sectors like hospitality and transportation etc. will get affected. Government should compensate them for the time being. It is for the betterment of the economy at a longer run. It is better that these precautions are taken rather than to lose both economic and social health