Rationalise Lockdowns To Reduce Hardships And Improve Usefulness

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Complete lockdowns to control surges in COVID-19 appear to be ineffective reactions. The growth graph of active cases, continuing high positivity ratio (percentage of positive cases in the tests conducted) and rising deaths indicate that infection increase is real, not just an arithmetical result of increased testing.

It could be that the effect of enforced social distancing is being nullified by faster infection spread due to other factors such as airborne infection. That apart, complete lockdowns are causing economic shutdowns, hardships for the majority and loss of livelihood for the poor.

Rationalised lockdowns
Lockdowns must, therefore, be rationalised and made bearable for the masses. Selective lockdowns should continue to be applied to establishments/enterprises where indoor crowding is unavoidable, such as schools/colleges, public transport, and public gatherings, till the pandemic subsides.

The proposal to open cinemas/gyms is fraught with risk. The recent warning by scientists from all over the world that SARS-CoV-2 (the Covid-19 virus) is airborne indicates that the indoor viral load in cinemas/gyms will be high.

But all activities, which can be carried on without crowding should be allowed, especially outdoor livelihood activities. Restrictions without relevance should be lifted. Examples: restricting shopping hours which actually causes rush; and restricting the movement of private vehicles which has no impact on social distancing or crowding.

Lockdown opportunities for redeployment
Selective lockdowns should be seen as an opportunity to redeploy manpower and infrastructure. School/college teachers and senior medical and engineering students can be offered decent allowances and mobilised into teams to:

1. Survey and provide reports on factors causing infection outbursts in quarantine centres/ bustees, hospitals and offices; availability and use of effective masks and disinfectants; and other aspects which need urgent survey
2. Conduct training sessions on COVID protection and hygiene for frontline workers such as ASHAS, ANWs, and AWWs;
3. Manage IT powered survey data processing centres, vacant infrastructure of Kalyan mandaps, indoor stadiums, and other locked down institutions can be utilised to:
a. Spread out quarantine centres to lower inmates-to-space ratio
b. To set up more COVID Primary Care Centres (which can be manned by senior medical students

For new mechanisms
1. Infrastructure to disinfect indoor air of hospitals, bank branches and quarantine centres where alarming outbreaks are occurring. Immediate help of IITs, NITs, CSIR, DRDO and ICMR can be requested

2. State/district level Citizens Feedback Platforms to receive, sort and put up feedback to relevant authorities
3. Mobile test sample collection using WUSC (walk in sample collection) vans

Time to prepare for re-opening of schools/colleges
Corona may continue for quite some time. Now is the time to plan and prepare for the earliest re-opening of schools/colleges and offices; precautions and protocols to be followed; measures and infrastructure needed for indoor disinfection, in-house quarantine, etc.

To prepare for economic revival
1. Prepare guidelines on precautionary measures and disinfection infrastructure required for the reopening of industries and businesses.
2. Compile database on skills/expertise of migrant workers to (a) facilitate inter-state employment exchange; (b) attract entrepreneurs/business groups to set up industries in the state; (c) inform local entrepreneurs such as builders on skilled manpower that is now available.

Containments and shutdowns
It is important that containments be restricted to the smallest necessary area, and people herded inside should, verifiably, be supplied all the necessities including effective masks and disinfectants.

Reports that persons are fleeing containment areas and quarantine centres should be followed up to prevent super spreading.

Shutdowns, even weekend ones, are curfew-like lockdowns, and cause immediate loss of income for daily wage earners, retail vendors and other small service providers. Also, they cause frightening congestion in markets on Mondays. Benefits are not apparent from statistics. Authorities should evaluate quantitative benefit, if any, and inform the public, or discontinue shutdowns.

In lockdowns, as in any other public action, imagination, pro-action and wider consideration will surely lead to better solutions.

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