Last year, when the government announced a nationwide lockdown, people were thrown in a frenzy to reach the safety of their homes. Even though a year has passed since then, and vaccinations are being administered on a large scale, the nation continues to face uncertainty in terms of rising cases, shortage of vaccine doses, and lack of hospital infrastructure.
Amid such an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, voices advocating for a short-duration national lockdown or a regional lockdown in severely hit states and Union Territories (UTs) grew louder this week. Many experts have urged the Centre to immediately plan and execute a 15-day lockdown to break the chain of infection and manage the second wave of the pandemic.
But just how effective could another lockdown be at his stage? The Weather Channel’s Science Sherlock investigates!
Will another lockdown help?
Last year, when India went into a 21-day national lockdown in March, the total number of active COVID-19 cases were merely over 500. Even then, the lockdown failed to stop the surge, which led to the first wave of coronavirus that devastated businesses and normal life.
On Friday, April 16, India reported 2,17,353 new COVID-19 cases, setting another grim single-day record and taking the overall infection tally to 14,291,917. In light of this, a short-duration lockdown is the need of the hour to stop the menace, experts have suggested.
“As the hospital services are up to the brim and more and more people are dying, vaccination has also been halted because of lack of access at many centres. This is an emergency situation for a shorter national lockdown,” said Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director of the Department of Clinical Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant at Fortis Hospital.
“This way, we will be able to break the virus chain and get a breather to vaccinate more and more people as hospital services will be back on track,” Bhargava added.
Experts also cited the example of the Amaravati lockdown model for breaking the deadly chain of transmission.
Amaravati, a region in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha district, saw a rapid surge of coronavirus cases in February. To break the chain of virus transmission, the state government first imposed a weekend lockdown on February 18, and then followed it by a stricter lockdown for seven days, from February 22 to March 1, which was extended for another one week from March 1 to March 8.
The lockdown successfully broke the chain of transmission and led to a decrease in the region’s active caseload.
Do healthcare workers recommend a lockdown?
According to Neha Gupta, Infectious Diseases Specialist at Medanta, The Medicity, Gurgaon, strict social distancing norms are very important at this juncture, as they will help in stabilising the overburdened healthcare services. She also noted that hospitals are facing a bed crunch and a shortage of antiviral drugs.
“We need an urgent lockdown for at least 15 days. It may not be as harsh as the last one, but there is a dire need for implementing this right away,” Bhargava said.
According to the leading doctors that are dealing with the health crisis, an extraordinary response is required to constrain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccinating the masses on a large scale will not be enough, as even after receiving the vaccination, people can catch the virus.
“One robust way to respond to this new variant of the virus is to quickly go for a restrictive lockdown,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, top cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgeon. “The way Maharashtra had taken a decision, the other states too should make a fast move because time is precious.”
Addressing the sudden increase in the magnitude of the situation, he explained that due to the introduction of several new coronavirus variants, the virus has spread two times faster than expected and caught the medical fraternity by surprise.
With regards to containing the virus, the leading cardiologist also noted that the vaccination drive has to be augmented.
“Besides, we have to increase the base of testing to ascertain the spread of this virus. And lastly, everyone has to be cautious. Wearing a mask is a must. It’s simple to say but hard to implement on the ground, particularly in smaller towns and places,” he said.
However, some doctors also had a different opinion on the question of enforcing a complete lockdown in the country to curb the spread of COVID-19’s second wave. Leading Indian physician and former President of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), K.K. Agarwal suggested that area-wise containment could be effective.
“Complete lockdown would not be practical. Actually enough time has been lost. We have to now focus on how to back the healthcare services and provide treatment to patients as numbers of admission are rising at a very fast pace. I would suggest that people should go for treatment as soon as symptoms appear,” said Agarwal.
Who is the second wave affecting the most?
The new variants of coronavirus, which are spreading faster than ever before, are affecting young people and even children this time.
Agarwal explained: “The UK strain, seen largely in Punjab, is affecting the young, especially those under the age of 45. Then there are strains from South Africa, Brazil and ones traced in Maharashtra. Out of these, the Indian mutation (of the virus) seems a bit dangerous. Like a wave, the virus is now spreading from the west (Maharashtra) to the north (Delhi)… But seeing the cases, I can say that the UK virus doesn’t look dangerous.”
The leading medical practitioners have a word of caution for India’s young generation.
“For the past fortnight, I am seeing a trend that more and more youngsters are coming to our centres,” said Sandeep Sharma, a top radiologist and a former key functionary of the Delhi Medical Association.
“On Wednesday, I had seen 15 COVID positive patients for their chest CT scan. Out of 15, only one patient was around 60 years old. Rest were within the age group of 40 to 22,” he said.
“The young population seems to have less fear about the virus. I would suggest they should be more careful as new strains of the virus are affecting them.”
The leading doctors were of the opinion that a callous approach by people, especially youngsters, and huge gatherings in recent festivals and social events have led to the second wave.
(With inputs from IANS)
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