Whether lockdown is sustainable to fight Coronavirus!


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A pneumonia kind of disease was firstly noticed in Wuhan in China somewhere in November-December 2019. The patients were found not responding properly to the usual treatment given to the pneumonia or flu suffering people. The virus was earlier named as Novel Coronavirus and then renamed as Covid-19.

It was found that in acute cases, the patient's respiratory system failed to perform resulting in death. It also shows symptoms of fever, dry cough etc including breathing related problems.

Sooner, the number of patients started increasing and it was clear by then that the disease spread from one person to another through direct contacts or through the droplets coming out of sneezing or coughing. An even more worrisome finding was that the disease could also spread through contaminated surfaces as the virus could survive on different objects/materials for several hours and even days. 

Everyday we could hear the news of fresh death coming from China from Covid-19. The news channels also reported that China also took steps to curtail the spread of disease to other parts of the country by implementing complete lockdown of the Wuhan province. 

From January 2020 onwards, the disease started spreading to different parts of the world and the situation started getting grim. The World Health Organization (WHO) after its assessment declared the disease to be a pandemic on 11th of March 2020.

By that time the world had already started feeling the pain of the disease and it was no more just confined to Wuhan. Several advisories were issued by different countries to avoid travel specifically to China. 

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Some countries like Italy, Spain, United States, United Kingdom etc were worst hit by the deadly virus. These were not the poor countries but the one with high resources and top medical facilities, but still everyday the hospitals were getting flooded with new infected patients and fresh cases of death arising out of the deadly disease. This had led to the spread of fear factor world wide and the travel industry was the first to feel the brunt as now the people started realizing that it's better to stay home rather than to travel, afterall it became a question of one's life.

It is worth mentioning here that leaders of some countries and especially the UK thought that this disease could be controlled by the theory of herd immunity, whereby the community at large will develop immunity against the virus through its wide spread. As such they didn't adopt lockdown at the initial stage. However, soon the hospitals were jam packed with a large number of patients and the daily death count started crossing the thousand mark. Even several of the world leaders also got infected with Covid-19 which also included Mr. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prince Charles etc. But thankfully they recovered from the disease after a few days of treatment and home quarantine.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Whether Covid-19 is man made or natural!

A severe controversy arose as to whether the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) was a natural coincidence or a result of human interference. 

On one hand since March 2020, China was depicting a sharp decline in the number of fresh Covid-19 cases and its daily death count was also coming down. On the other hand, Europe and the US were under tremendous attack of the virus. Everyday thousands of fresh cases were coming and the daily death count was enormously rising. With New York now being the new epicentre of the virus and as of 1st week of May 2020, the death counts were crossing 70,000.

Some of the countries like the United States, Australia, UK were also demanding a free ingress for their scientists into China so as to investigate into the reasons for the eruption of this pandemic from Wuhan. However, the Chinese Govt was strictly opposed to any such idea.

The Chinese proposition was that the virus got into humans from the infected bat and its origin was the wet market of Wuhan. Whereas, on the other hand another theory was also getting voiced that the virus was developed in the virological department of Wuhan where it was cultured and developed as a biological weapon or may be for some tests, but accidently it leaked from there. 

This proposition was also getting support from the fact that China didn't report any case of infection in other parts of the country. Surprisingly not a single case was noted in Beijing or in Shanghai which were just a few hundred km from Wuhan, whereas the Covid-19 virus spreaded just like a wild fire in the entire world. Especially the US President Mr. Donald Trump raised several serious questions on the intention of China and also blamed WHO for not providing the correct picture in time. He also blamed China that when it shutdown its domestic airlines in order to prevent the spread of disease within China then why at the same time it was opposing the closure of international flights to and fro to China!

It was also surprising to the world that how China contained this disease not just to a single province but also effectively controlled the death count to under 4500. Whereas the European countries and US were struggling to contain the death count.

The situation created a sense of bitterness and suspicion against China. Especially the U.S. President Mr. Donald Trump was quite vocal in expressing his anger towards China. The same is also reflected in his numerous tweets and in press conferences. He even threatened that in case it comes to an investigation that China had developed this virus and had intentionally spread it, in that case China will have to pay a heavy price for this act.

Recently in a press conference President Trump even called this Corona virus as worst attack than Pearl harbor or terrorist attack on World Trade Center and stated that this should have never happened if the same would have been controlled at its origin in China. 

Amidst all the bad news and sadness caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19), there's a ray of hope also coming in the form of news of the advance stage of vaccine development by some of the countries. However the final results are awaited and the effectiveness can only be confirmed after human trials on the same are proved successful. By the end of April 2020, earlier worst affected European countries like Italy, Spain, UK and France started showing decline in daily mortality cases.

Status as in India:

India was among the first few countries in the world to take a proactive approach in handling the menace of deadly Covid-19. The Prime Minister of India Sh. Narendra Modi declared a nation wide lockdown in the 3rd week of March 2020.

Mr. Narendra Modi was very categorical in explaining the urgency to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease and also stated that if the disease goes uncontrolled, then the whole nation may have to pay a heavy price for it. He also requested the citizens to co-operate in India's fight against Covid-19. The steps taken by India were appreciated internationally.

Keeping in view the fact that India is still a developing nation with limited resources and huge population to handle and serve, it was nonetheless a mammoth task in itself. The people of India started its fight against coronavirus with great zeal and at one moment it even appeared that India will be able to control the disease by the mid of April 2020.

But then suddenly came the news of gathering of thousands of Muslim followers of Tablighi Jamaat in Markaz in Nizamuddin in New Delhi. Those people were there for the last several days and had joined a religious gathering conducted by Jammat, but the situation got more alarming as a large number of visitors were from countries where Covid-19 had already spread its wings. The people were taken in buses to hospitals by authorities and after tests a large number of those attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat were found Corona positive.

There was also news that many of the Tablighi had already left the venue and had gone to their respective destinations. Several appeals were made by the different state Governments that the attendees of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin should come forth and get them tested for Corona disease. In fact the news channels were also flooded with heated discussions on this issue for several days.

There were also some reports of stone pelting on health care teams and on police persons when they went in search of the people who attended the gathering in Nizamuddin. However slowly this precarious situation was brought under control by the agencies by spreading awareness between the people and also by taking firm action against the violators of it's orders.

As the month of April progressed, the reports of new patients of Covid-19 started surfacing and the country had to again go for a lockdown. But this continued suspension of economic activity was proving too hard for the daily wage earners and the lower income group migrants.

The trains and other passenger transport mediums were under suspension, however there were incidents of large numbers of migrant labourers and other lower income group people leaving the metro cities and proceeding towards their home town or villages by walking 100s of kilometers. This was heart wrenching. They were saying to news channel reporters that they are not left with money and without work and livelihood they are not in a position to continue their stay in metros. Moreover their landlords are asking them to leave the rented accomodation in absence of their ability to pay the monthly rent.

We must understand the reality that India is home to a large number of underprivileged and very low income population and the suspension of economic activities are playing havoc with their lives. They are the first to face the brunt as their reserves are quite low and evaporate soon the moment the livelihood is lost. So they need utmost attention from the Government as well as by the society at large so that they are not left to vegaries.

Compelled by the rising number of Covid-19 positive cases, Indian Government was compelled to announce a further stretch of lock down. At present the lock down had been extended till 17.05.2020. Government had also demarcated different regions as Green, Orange or Red depending upon the intensity of impact of disease with Green as least affected and Red as the highest one.

It needs to mention here that despite several problems faced by the lock down, the Government has done a commendable job in maintaining the supply chain of basic amenities like food, milk, grocery etc and there are also reports of law enforcing agencies taking strict action against hoarders and black marketers at many places.

How prolonged lockdown cannot be a sustainable solution:

India is a developing country with a home to more than 1/6th of the world's population. The per capita income is quite low as compared to developed nations and the majority of the people either fall in the lower middle class or below the poverty line.

Large number of people here work in unorganized sectors and many are daily wagers with meagre means and savings. This ongoing lockdown is affecting their livelihood in the worst possible manner. In addition we may see a surge in closure of many small enterprises and business centres leading to job losses.

Further, the longer the economic activities remain suspended, the more fuel it will need to restart itself. The economy can go into prolonged slow down as even if the industries start its production, the consumption will be quite low because of fear factor and job loss/income loss scenario. There will also be cases of sudden spike in NPAs of the Banking system thus substantially reducing their ability to finance further business activities.

There will be high expectation from Government from all the corners for giving huge economic packages, but we must remember that the Government also generates its resources by taxing the economic activities going within it and if the same remain subdued not much option will be left with the Government.

Yes, in need of urgency, the Government always has the option to print extra money or to borrow to meet its expenses and responsibilities, but that comes with its own danger of severe devaluation of currency, high inflation and rise in fiscal deficit. The weakening economy and rise of fiscal deficit attracts degradation of ratings by the credit agencies leading to more economic constraints.

There are news that many of the countries including US are printing huge quantity of paper currency (Dollar for US) to meet out the exigencies and to push liquidity in the economy or to even fund the needs of people. However, this methodology adopted can bring in high inflation in the economy.

So with the rise of new cases of Covid-19 patients, the decision whether to continue with lockdown or to lift it is not very easy. However, as discussed earlier the continued suspension of economic activities will also have dreadful experiences and is not sustainable for long. As such I think that sooner the Government will be compelled out of necessity to lift the lockdown even if the cases of Covid-19 patients are on rise.

Evaluation of cases in India and abroad:

Till now, the whole world was under fear and agony. There were preventive measures also taken by several countries and undoubtedly India led the same. The credit goes to the Indian Government headed by Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi, who was keeping a close eye on the day to day development related to Covid-19. His speech given to the nation in the month of March 2020 prior to declaration of Nation wide lockdown shows his immense concern about his citizens well being.

But now almost 2 months have passed since the lockdown. Further, it's almost 6 months since the eruption of the cases in China. As such now we must have accumulated a lot of data related to Covid-19 cases. Apart from the whole hearted efforts of development of vaccines and other medical advancement in the field, it also needs a thorough analysis of cases in India vis-a-vis cases world wide. This is crucial because it can lead to future course of action by the State. Some points may be considered:

  • Examination of mortality cases in India: A close examination of such cases are necessary. Whether the patients who expired had any medical history and if so what were those! Whether the death can specifically be attributed to Covid-19 or it only acted as a trigger!

  • Comparative study of death caused by Covid-19 vis-a-vis other diseases: Till date there are around 2600 (approx) death cases in India i.e. after passage of more than almost 70-80 days. A comparative study needed to appreciate as to the death caused during this period due to other diseases including death caused by normal reasons. As per some reports India witnesses more than 4 million deaths annually due to TB  (which is more than 12,300 deaths per day). According to Wikipedia report, the annual rate of death in India is 7.3 per 1000 people which approximately turns out to be around 99 lacs deaths in a year (taking the population to be 135 crores). It needs to be analysed as to whether the death caused by Covid-19 are over and above the otherwise death rate in India or whether the graph somewhere submerges with the normal death count in the country! 

  • Analysis of mortality cases in developed countries vis-a-vis developing world: At least till now the worst affected regions from Covid-19 are the US and the European countries. These are countries with superior medical facilities and rich resources, but still facing the severest wrath of the disease when compared to the situation in the developing world. It is of paramount importance to study the probable reasons for such a scenario. This should also be examined with cases in other developing countries. 

  • Analysis of cured patients: A close monitoring of the health condition of discharged patients should be done. A proper report be prepared to study their health conditions thereafter.

  • Asymptomatic cases: There are reports of a large number of asymptomatic people who were found to be carriers of the virus. At one hand it seems to be an alarming situation as it would be very difficult to identify such cases and they can be potential carriers of the virus. But on the other hand, there is also a silver line to it, which shows that it is not at all necessary that the virus could prove fatal always and people may remain hale and hearty despite being carriers of the same. We should also appreciate the fact that the human body is already home to a large number of different kinds of bacterias and viruses but it still survives. So a careful analysis should be done to the asymptomatic cases to understand what makes them different from those getting seriously affected by the virus. Is it age, medical history, immune system, genetic differences or difference in day to day life style including food habits or anything else! This study is very crucial as it will help us in understanding who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and thus help in adopting a focused approach.

  • Study of impact of recent migration of workforce in the country and relation of Covid-19 spread: Recently India witnessed large scale migration of daily wage earners and people from economically weaker sections from metro cities and industrial areas to their home states. This was because of loss of their livelihood and a pessimism caused due to lock-down. These people had travelled from many corona infected regions and also travelled in public transport in crowded situations. A close monitoring of the development arising out of this mass movement is required to understand its impact on spread of fresh cases. This will also prove as an experiment to decide future course of action relating to resuming of public transport systems and particularly re-opening of schools, colleges, cinema halls, courts and other public gathering places. 

  • Study of impact on institutions/organizations which remained functional during lockdown: During this entire lockdown several essential services remained functional as usual such as banks, hospitals etc. These are places of public gathering and as such can provide crucial data to study the spread of Covid-19 cases (if any) among the employees working there. Even if they got infected, then the fate of those cases (along with patient medical history).

  • Study of cases where lockdown has been lifted: In the third stage of ongoing lockdown, there are several relaxations given to many work places. Now many offices had resumed their work (although partially). Several of such offices are also centrally air conditioned. There is a cause of concern in many that premises with centralized air conditioning systems are prone to spread of virus. Precise reports should be collected from many of such big offices and also from hospitals dealing with Covid-19 cases to study interlink if any with such spread. 

The study should be done with complete objectivity and without any preconceived notions, hopefully it will pave our way to future course of action. 

At least the current situation depicts that the situation in India is not as alarming as in Western countries. The reasons may be that the climatic conditions are not very conducive in India or may be the immune systems among the Indians are better equipped to fight the viral infection. The reasons can be many and this needs to be carved out through proper analysis of data. 

Viruses are minutest of creations and once it entered the system and spread worldwide, the possibility of throwing it out of doors is almost next to impossible. It will survive at one place or the other either in dormant stage or in active form. However, we can develop systems to fight against it and to remain immune to its attack or at least remain least affected. The whole humanity cannot be placed in a sealed envelope for long or to live under constant fear. We have no other choice but to learn to live with it and still come as a winner.

Always remember that earlier also humanity has witnessed several pandemics and challenges, but has come up with a winning flag and this time will be no different.

[Disclaimer: The aforesaid views and experience are personal to the author and should not be taken as any professional advice. Further the author shall not be liable for any errors or omissions in the information and viewers are advised to check the same from concerned official sites or offices. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, country or individual. We always respect the dignity and feelings of any religion, ethnic, individual, groups, company etc.]


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