Written byShalini Ojha ·
With the coronavirus cases seeing a surge in India, despite the early measures taken by the government, experts feel a pre-emptive lockdown is the only way to deal with the deadly virus that has taken over 6,000 lives worldwide and infected 169,577.
Restrictions on travel and public gatherings should be imposed without any political considerations, experts told HT.
Here's how India should prepare itself.
The novel coronavirus, that causes the COVID-19 disease, has infected 110 people in India, including 17 foreign nationals.
On Sunday, India recorded the highest single-day jump, with 23 people testing positive. Uttarakhand recorded its first case yesterday and Maharashtra reported 17 new infections.
Since its outbreak in China in mid-December, the virus has traveled across the globe and given sleepless nights to world leaders.
After China, Italy was hit the worst as it recorded over 1,800 deaths. The number of infections surged to 24,747.
The pandemic has forced countries to take stringent steps. Italy has announced a nationwide lockdown, France chose to shut all its shops, and the US declared a national emergency after days of dilly-dallying.
While all these steps are appreciated, experts believe the stringent action came too late.
The lockdown was announced only after positive cases spiked, and India should learn from their mistakes.
India has shut schools, malls, and suspended visas for nearly a month. But the response hasn't been uniform. No state has taken the lead on a stricter lockdown and tourist places are functioning normally.
In some cases, people in quarantine escaped fanning risks of community infection.
Once the virus spreads in the community, tracing the zero patient would become impossible, rendering a lockdown useless.
Experts explained there are four stages of virus transmission. Stage 1 means the virus was imported and Stage 2 means that people who got infected established contact with a positive person who probably had a travel history.
Stage 3 refers to community transmission when professionals can't pinpoint the source of infection, and Stage 4 means the problem has spread across the country.
India currently stands at Stage 2.
Doctors at the Indian Council of Medical Research said a pre-emptive lockdown at this stage is India's best case against the virus.
"There is no community transmission in India as yet, and there are several stages to cross before that worrisome stage is reached...The idea is to buy time as much as possible so that damage is minimum," said Dr. Balram Bhargava, ICMR's director-general.
World Health Organization (WHO)'s Southeast Asia Region director Poonam Khetrapal said social distancing is one of the best ways to reduce transmission.
"The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets...By maintaining a distance, we can reduce the virus transmission," she said.
India suspended travel through the Katarapur Corridor. Separately, Mumbai Police invoked Section 144 to stop tour operators from organizing trips till March 31.
While a lockdown sounds good, some professionals have apprehensions. "The lockdown is preventive, and seemingly a very brave decision of the government, but the question is for long can you continue like this," said Dr. Dileep Mavlankar, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health.
Another area which India needs to tackle soon is testing. Till February 4, testing rates of most countries were similar. While some countries like Taiwan and Singapore scaled it up, some European nations had a lax approach making the situation worse.
Unfortunately, the Indian government is also following the latter trend, despite knowing that its patchy healthcare system can't afford it.
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