Would extending the coronavirus lockdown after April 14 achieve its OBJECTIVE?11 Apr, 2020
Would extending the coronavirus lockdown after April 14 achieve its OBJECTIVE?
Discussing the pros and cons of extending the lockdown to check Covid 19 infection.
As the 21 days’ lockdown imposed by the Government of India on 24 March is inching towards an end, everyone is wondering what the next step would be. It has been reported that the Home Ministry has sought views of state governments on the lockdown, and a review meeting was also held by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on April 10. With the number of infected cases arising from nearly 550 on the day of lockdown to nearly 8000 today, (against close to 1.7 lakh samples being tested cumulatively so far across India), it is beyond doubt that the bold decision of lockdown has reduced the rate of spread of infection.
I read the article – CORONAVIRUS - What after 14th April, 2020? Would extended lockdown contain Corona infection? at the website and also the reader’s responses. There is one important issue which seems to have missed everybody’s attention. With certain state government expressing an intention to stretch of lockdown till April 30, it is time to examine whether extending the lockdown would achieve its objective. For that, one must be clear of what the objective of the lockdown was in the first place. If the government wanted to buy time to scale up the infrastructure to manage Covid 19 outbreak, then this objective has definitely been achieved.
However, if the objective was to eradicate Covid 19 infection, then the rise in infected cases by about 15 times since the imposition of the lockdown shows that the lockdown has not been successful. It would be meaningless then to extend it any further as the infection would continue to spread, though at a lesser pace. The only justification, if it all, to extend the lockdown, would be seeking more time to deal with the infection. Surprisingly, in the largest democracy in the world, there seems to be little discussion or debate about the pros and cons of extending the lockdown in the public arena. There appears to be no categorical answer as to what was sought to be achieved by the lockdown. This calls for openness in the decision-making and it would be prudent for the government to come out with the reasons for imposing the lockdown as per section 4 of the RTI Act.
The WHO recommended to isolate and test, there was no lockdown mentioned as a general strategy. But the lockdown is the spearhead of the Indian approach. If the objective set to be achieved by the lockdown is not dealt with now, the government would be forced to face this question on April 30 as it would be foolhardy to assume that the number of cases shall not rise.
Not extending the lockdown sparks the fear of triggering a rapid wave of infection. Dealing with the return of workers to the cities and further to their work places - factories, farms, building sites, shops – would be a great challenge. Can some degree of restrictions on mobility allowing social distancing, use of protective clothing, personal hygiene and temperature checks serve the purpose, at least to a reasonable level? It is definitely a difficult question to answer, but a call has to be taken.
Not anticipating the exodus of millions of migrant workers following the lockdown was a colossal failure. Expecting that the large majority of the 1.3 billion would be able to survive without work would be another gigantic mistake. Looking it as a policy dilemma of the trade-off between lives and economy, in my opinion, would not be appropriate. Common sense tells us that lockdown cannot be extended indefinitely and the fatigue is approaching fast. So, the difficult question remains where it is – or rather, is the decision making being postponed to future date?
Human life is pious and invaluable. No price can ever be justified for buying a human life or not paying an amount to save a human life. So far the total number of deaths due to coronavirus infection is around 250. This figure should be seen in the context of the total deaths in India due to all causes which is more than 24,000 daily (source - https://countrymeters.info/en/India). With the economy now in doldrums, a legitimate question could be whether opening up the country would provide the resources to deal with the situation more effectively.
Some points to contemplate:
- Against the population of 1.3 billion, not even 1% population has been tested so far for Covid 19. Hence, the actual number of infected cases may be higher. We need to brush up our capacity to test for infection.
- Does anyone have an idea about the availability of protective mask and gloves - either imported or locally produced? Ramping up of production of personal protective equipment (PPEs) amongst others must be our priority.
- The doctors, policemen and cleaners have done a yeoman duty to the nation, but they are not immune to infection. Poor doctor - patient ratio in the population could prove to be the Achilles heel if a large number of patients turn up. With the community spread of the infection and nearside, it would be prudent to train a second line of paramedical workers who can provide emergency care. Preparing a second line of home guards, using retired police officers, and enlightened citizens could provide an answer.
- One of the most effective equipment and preventing death is the Ventilator. It would be worthwhile to ask whether India has utilised the last fortnight productively in preparing itself for the plausible eventuality of a full-blown epidemic and had started large-scale production of ventilators.
- Despite all the hue and cry over the Covid 19 infection, it is surprising to take note of the delay in using “plasma therapy” for the treatment. The ICMR have given its nod for the first clinical trial using the Plasma therapy to be done in Kerala. With hundreds of patients now recovering from Covid 19 infection, this therapy must reach each district at the earliest. The technique is well known and the concept is to use plasma (from blood) of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 which is rich in antibodies.
- Hydroxychloroquine and Quinine has been shown to be effective in tackling the infection. India must run the pharma factories 24 X 7 to deal with the requirement not only of itself, but also for the world, after her own needs are met.
The country should use its resources effectively to deal with the grave situation due to Covid 19 infection. In the light of the above, restricting movement of the entire country for long is a very poor idea, especially when the purpose is merely to delay the onset of infection. All the reasons for the lockdown must be pro-actively shared with the citizens.
Article - CORONAVIRUS - What after 14th April, 2020? Would extended lockdown contain Corona infection? at your site and also the readers response.
The response of the readers at - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/response-readers-article-coronavirus-what-after-14#.XpH7-ogzbIU
Also at - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/mails-readers-coronavirus-would-extended-lockdown#.XpH8DYgzbIU