The economy is hurting from the long lockdown, but if all goes well, India will revisit to figure next Monday. Schools won’t reopen yet, nor bars and cinemas, but many other mothballed businesses will shake off their covers exactly seven days from now. Experts say timing is vital to reopening. Open timely, thousands could die. Wait too long, the economy could break. Here’s a 7-point pre-opening checklist…
If you catch the virus, you’re most infectious within the first few days. To catch carriers early, everyone who comes in touch with a known patient must be traced. The Aarogya Setu app is a method to try to to this, but it doesn’t have enough users to be reliable yet. What we’d like is teams of contact-tracers on the bottom. Wuhan used 1,800 teams with 5 members each for a population of 11 million.
Tracing is all about surveillance. Testing may be a less creepy alternative. One proposal within the US involves 22 million tests a day, in order that their entire population is roofed once every 2 weeks. Could India do 100 million tests daily? One million? The virus spread so quickly due to inadequate testing. We can’t stop it if we only test patients with symptoms. The ICMR says 69% of corona-positive Indians show no symptoms. So, seemingly healthy people should be tested because they might be ‘super spreaders’. Offer tests in housing societies, mass transit stations and markets. If universal testing shows only a little percentage of positive results, we will win this.
3. SECOND WAVE
4. PROTECT HEALTH STAFF
They’re being called ‘frontline warriors’, but doctors and nurses didn’t check in for the work thinking death was a part of the deal. They’re working zealously. It’s the government’s responsibility to offer all of them the protective gear, medicines and equipment they have. Their families also need support. If health staff continues getting a deal, they’re going to quit when the second wave of infections hits.
5. ISOLATE WITH DIGNITY
It’s important to isolate corona-positive people far away from their families, but bundling them away under police escort and shutting them up in dirty dormitories is inhuman and unjust. It results in people hiding their symptoms and deed from quarantine centres. If you would like people to cooperate, be very nice to them. Taiwan isolates people in comfortable hotel rooms. The govt foots the bill. We, too, got to ‘decriminalise’ Covid-19.
6. NEW ‘NORMAL’
The virus loves crowded bazaars, buses and trains—what we consider normal life. Let’s frustrate it. Forget crowded stadiums till the day we’ve a vaccine and free universal immunisation. Until then, get wont to wearing a mask, sanitising hands, getting temperature-checked everywhere and social-distancing.
7. BUILD TRUST
We aren’t China. A democracy works with persuasion, not coercion. That’s why clear, timely and regular communication is important. New policies have a far better chance of succeeding if people trust the govt .