In the words of Rahul Gandhi, Lockdown in a Pandemic like Covid19 is a pause button, to temporarily arrest its spread, but is not going to kill or eradicate it.
It can only buy us some time to prepare ourselves to fight it and many State Govts have really done a commendable job. Billion thanks to our Front line heroes and the State Chief Ministers.
Almost 40 days since the Janata Curfew, India has been under complete lockdown for 37 days now…137 crore population is eagerly awaiting the Govt’s next decision on the Lockdown.
The Principle of Binary is mostly dicey…
Unfortunately we have only two possible options: Lift or Extend the lockdown
If we lift up the Lockdown, chances of sudden surge in the number of cases will choke the entire system.
If we extend the Lockdown, a large population will be forced to sleep hungry or cut on their basic necessities.
Had there been a way to assure us that by extending the Lockdown for another 30 or 40 days, the Pandemic will die its natural death…India will be more than willing to cooperate for another phase of lockdown extension. Unfortunately there’s no such principle or theory to support the argument.
Lockdown may not really effect many, but will be life and death issue and for some it might escalate their health issues. Unemployment rate is reaching almost 25%, threat of hunger deaths is rising with every passing day.
14 Crore Migrant workers & daily wagers have lost their livelihood.
11 Crore people employed by 6.3 crore MSMEs have not gone to work for over a month now, which translates into loss of pay or even lay off as the entire sector is under Extreme Liquidity Shock.
Economy has come to a stand still and we cannot rule out job cuts in other sectors like the IT, Telecom, Hospitality etc. March salaries are yet to be credited, April salaries will be nothing less than a Bonus even with a 25% reduction, as their bills are mounting.
But still it is not advisable to lift the lockdown completely and expose the entire population to the Pandemic, because our Health care system is not equipped to handle a larger magnitude of the outbreak.
Hence it is wiser to think wisely and practically and carve a middle path by planning a Staggered or Graded Lockdown Exit.
What is the Magnitude of Covid19 in India?
As per ICMR guidelines India is Testing only those with severe symptoms, but we are not testing people with no symptoms or even those with mild symptoms.
Dr. Jay Prakash, a renowned Epidemiologist, has given his opinion based on the pattern reported so far. There are 60% positive cases who have not shown any symptoms of influenza or Covid19. Which means the ratio of tested +ve samples Vs untested +ve samples is 1: 60, this directly says that India is not testing enough samples.
By underplaying the Epidemic, Govt is trying to hide its unpreparedness for so many days. Let us not forget the PPE procurement was reported to be faulty so was the Rapid Testing Kits procurement.
Owing to the lack of preparedness of our Govt and the possible Cure or Vaccine for the Disease, India cannot choose to opt for “Herd Immunity” principle.
Herd Immunity is a method under which at least 40% of the population is exposed to the Viral Infection at various levels of intensity…by virtue of which their auto immune system becomes active and starts producing Anti Bodies against the Viral Antigen, like it happened in the case of Swine Flue. Probably this also could be one of the reasons behind our resistance against Covid19.
But there’s a catch to this method….between the exposure to the infection to the production of antibodies and the recovery there’s a considerable time span, could be up to 4 weeks or more, during which the individual requires medical help to hospitalisation. But we are not having enough hospital beds or isolation wards to accommodate huge number of patients. Boris Johnson has taught us what not to do.
As per the data Mortality rate of Covid19 in India is little above 3% of which elderly people are more. So we have a duty to safeguard our older generation, next generation and those with comorbidity or people with multiple conditions co-occurring with a primary condition.
What is the immediate Requirement?
Test, Identify and Isolate
By now State Govts have identified the Red, Orange and Green Zones in their respective states. Containment and monitoring of these zones with a Dynamic approach because today’s Red zone may become Orange zone tomorrow and vis a versa. And the only way this can be identified is by continuous monitoring and aggressive testing.
Testing can be done by random or pooled samples methods in the Red and Orange Zones in particular.
Red Zones must be strictly contained from mingling with Orange or Green Zones.
Same thing applies to the other two zones also.
Can Economic Activities Resume?
Central Govt may have the luxury of time and might be finding it more convenient to extend the Lockdown, with some emotional pep talk.
But Central Govt has the duty of extending Financial Assistance to the State Govts and the MSMEs by announcing:
- Wage protection assistance
- Credit guarantee fund
Economic activities in the Green Zones must be allowed to resume. Sectors which are essential for the people need to spring back to action and the supporting linked activities also must be allowed to resume. A scientific approach is required to identify and prioritise the activities which can be allowed to restart, with a reduced workforce…increase the number of shifts instead.
Work from Home must continue for some more time.
This will have double benefit:
- Our Economy we start rolling.
- The process of Herd Immunity will begin some where.
The decision should be left to State Govt’s jurisdiction, with a strict surveillance by the Central Govt.
Crowds must be avoided in public places, Cinema, Shopping Malls, Hotels, Travel etc can wait.
Collectively with a Scientific and Practical approach India will definitely win the Covid19 war.