The previous part of the article can be accessed here. This is the second part.
Large scale suspects areas could be cordoned off as CV high-risk areas
We saw the 2 obvious lockdown exit options before the Government in Part – 1 of this article. Let’s see a possible Option 3 that will optimize the cost in terms of lives and livelihood, along with strategies proposed by many public policy thinkers and McKinsey.
Option 3. Lift the lockdown selectively, judiciously and progressively:
Containing spread of the Coronavirus (CV) consists of 2 parts:
- Testing suspects, quarantining them, treating CV-positives either as OP (out-patients)/ IP (in-patients) / ICU in hospitals,
- Ensuring that the others who are unaffected don’t contract it from the former group. The availability of the lower cost rapid test kits is likely to help us in this.
We’re only trying to stretch the timeline it takes for CV spread so that our hospital resources are not stretched beyond the availability of resources at any point in time.
Where there are clusters of deaths, CV positives, or even large scale suspects, such areas could be cordoned off as CV high-risk areas; these could be at the City/Town level, District level, or even Taluk or Block level if we’re reasonably certain about the containment within the Blocks or Taluks. The lower level at which we can contain the spread, the easier we can kickstart the economy in the other Taluks and Blocks.
Minimizing the number of CV-deaths consists of 2 parts:
- Protecting the asymptomatic, and/or CV-negative, but vulnerable (old and immunity compromised like patients of cancer, autoimmune disorders, lung diseases, high BP, AIDS, diabetes, etc.) by home quarantining,
- Ensuring that the others who may or may not be CV-affected don’t contract it from possible carriers in the former group.
We can’t be 100% successful in our efforts because most of the people will, willy nilly, contract CV. We’re only trying to stretch the timeline it takes for CV spread so that our hospital resources are not stretched beyond the availability of resources at any point in time. Here is where Hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQS) pills could (hopefully) prove to be a God-send!
Schools and colleges can continue to be locked down. the Agricultural sector can be relaxed from lockdown subject to observing social distancing norms, to enable them to harvest and marketing their produce. Hospitals can be allowed to function, separated into CV, CV-suspect and non-CV blocks, subject to handling at least critical/urgent cases, avoiding routine cases.
Only non-vulnerable people could be permitted to move, only for essential work, including commuting to the place of work where work from home is not possible.
If we are worried about such a lifting of lockdown leading to huge-spurt in Covid-19 cases, we can at least lift the restrictions very slowly, but tightening/ loosening progressively based on how things progress.
Business & industry could be given limited chance to restart subject to observing social distancing, mandating work-from-home where possible. Priority for business & industry to operate and permission for people to move should be on the basis of public good and national economy. And they may be backed with controlled financing where needed, so they can restart.
Only non-vulnerable people could be permitted to move, only for essential work, including commuting to the place of work where work from home is not possible. The lockdown could be relaxed slowly and progressively, subject to improvement in the situation.
Transport of goods can be permitted with controls and observing social distancing policy.
Public transport, including bus, train and air travel can be opened up in a slow and calibrated manner with checks to ensure social distancing. International travel can be opened up only when we’re sure the world and India have overcome CV.
All those who are permitted to commute in the above processes may be subjected to close observation for symptoms and CV test, and where suspected for CV, isolated, quarantined/treated in hospitals.
This will not only pump prime the economy, but also bring in revenues to Governments.
We have to ensure that the government’s thoughts and plans reach the people effectively; by and larges to the nation stands solidly behind the PM and the government.
The risks in such an approach are minimal, but the returns are enormous.
This is analogous to the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) in investing. Just as SIP is better than non-investment in the long run, this Systematic Normalcy Plan (SNP), apart from helping us get out of the lockdown mode, also give confidence to MSMEs and labour that soon things will return to normalcy, there will be fewer job losses, less unrest in the society, and who knows, if we handle the transition well, we may soon be practically out of lockdown, minimizing the CV damages, saving lives as well as livelihoods.
In sum, we should explore striking a middle path between Options 1 and 2, by doing extensive rapid tests and quarantining & treating the CV positives, semi-quarantining the vulnerable, restricting the 100% lockdown areas to critical areas, continuing with ‘work-from-home’ where possible, maintaining social distances, and minimizing disruption to the economy, and yet containing spreading of CV.
States could be given option 3 as a possible option. As far as Central Government establishments are concerned, the Central Government can preferably decide on option 3, of course, with the assistance of State Governments where required.
This way, the responsibility for the prolonged lockdown could be on the states. Since they will be compared with other similarly placed states, states won’t choose an easy way out but take well-thought-out decisions.
I request the Central and State Governments to consider this option 3 seriously.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.