Lockdown strategy: Only partly successful

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If for example, the doubling rate increases by 1 or 2 days in every 3-4 days, with the current figures of around 160000 cases and about 13 days as the doubling rate, we can expect, in about 3 months, the number of cases in India may be approaching 10 million and if after that the doubling rate comes even near one month, it would mean 20 million (2 crores) in the next month and 40 millions in another two months. The figures after October would then become unbelievably horrible. So, unless the daily number of cases starts showing clear decline for good enough periods, we cannot have a sigh of relief.

By Dr. Javed Jamil

When Lockdown-4 is nearing its end, and Lockdown 5 is almost imminent, the questions are obvious to be asked: how much this strategy has been successful so far? The Governmental sources will try to claim it a big success while the opposition will try to paint it as failure. The truth is in between the two. While it has certainly put some breaks on the spread of virus and the number of cases and deaths could have been far greater, the breaks have not been as perfect as they could have been with a better strategy. Where the System failed is its inability to precede the Lockdown of the country with the Lockdown of the airports at the right time. India was fortunate to get the Covid transported to India a little later than many of the countries. It had much greater time to plan. But what it failed to do is that it did not realise at the right time that if at all Indians are going to be infected it would be through the people coming from outside the country. If the Lockdown had been clamped on the airports right in the first week of March or before, with the quarantine of every single person coming from outside the country, perhaps, the Lockdown would not have been required for the country.

The second failure was the strategy related to the details of the various lockdowns. Migrants could have been given 5-7 days’ time to embark on their journeys to their native places. After the first lockdown, the cities where no single case was reported could have been allowed normal activities within the city with complete sealing of the border. Those coming from outside should have been quarantined before going homes. This could have saved the stress on the economy t a certain extent.

The daily press conferences by the health ministry spokesman emphasize on some facts which give a totally misleading impression of success. First is the rising recovery rate. When we know that the death rate in Covid-19 is less than 10 pc in almost all the countries and the incubation period followed by recovery does not take more than 21 days, the recovery rate would obviously keep increasing till it reaches 90 percent. If it is lower in India than in many countries, it has many reasons apart from the health care. In Indian population, the number of the young is much higher than in Western countries. Further, the future studies may show that alcohol played a role in the mortality and despite the rising trend in India too, it is relatively much less common in Indian population than the western countries. It can be noted that after the opening of liquor shops in India, there has been a sudden spurt in the number of daily cases.

The second is the figures on doubling rate, which again give a painfully misleading satisfaction about the success of the lockdown. If for example, the doubling rate increases by 1 or 2 days in every 3-4 days, with the current figures of around 160000 cases and about 13 days as the doubling rate, we can expect, in about 3 months, the number of cases in India may be approaching 10 million and if after that the doubling rate comes even near one month, it would mean 20 million (2 crores) in the next month and 40 millions in another two months. The figures after October would then become unbelievably horrible. So, unless the daily number of cases starts showing clear decline for good enough periods, we cannot have a sigh of relief.

The unfortunate part is that we lost the opportunity right in the beginning by not locking down the airports. If anything can be done now to control the menace, it is really difficult to suggest. The pressures of economy will make it more and more difficult. We can only watch with continually intensifying pain what is happening and praying to God to save the humanity remains the only option.

 

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Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker, physician, poet and writer with over twenty books to his credit. Currently he holds Chair in ISAR, Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalore, Karnataka (India). He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com

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