Marginal Benefits Of Lockdown Can No Longer Justify The Excessive Costs That Come Along With It

by Karan Bhasin - Jun 12, 2020 05:56 PM +05:30 IST
Marginal Benefits Of Lockdown Can No Longer Justify The Excessive Costs That Come Along With ItThe costs of lockdown.
  • Lockdowns were effective only for the purpose of getting data, preparing healthcare infrastructure and buying time to understand the nature of the pandemic.

As more states decide to gradually lift the Covid-19 lockdown, there has been an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. This has made it important to look at what is happening across the world.

For starters, globally, the spread of Covid-19 has moderated significantly. Perhaps, we now have adequate data available to look at the spread of the virus, factors that have contributed to its spread and the death rate along with vulnerabilities for a set of patients.

Based on this data, we know that the disease is not as deadly as it was feared initially, and that mild Covid-19 cases can also be handled without patients being admitted to hospitals. These findings have enabled countries such as the US, UK and Europe to gradually open up.

Despite this opening up, the number of new cases has been modest in Europe, where schools have also been reopened.

Experts have argued that heat and humidity have been major factors that have slowed the spread of the disease, especially across Europe.

The other fact worth recognising is that lockdowns were effective only for the purpose of getting data, preparing healthcare infrastructure and buying time to understand the nature of the pandemic.

It is precisely this reason why several state governments in India have gradually lifted restrictions as Centre has allowed for greater economic activity to take place.

The question that emerges is whether we can contain the spread of the pandemic while going back to work in a country like India, which has limited healthcare capacity?

The answer to this question depends on which state we are looking at.

For instance, Delhi seems to be struggling now in containing the virus. Frequent reports of lack of beds, medical personnel, and other infrastructure point at the possibility of the disease getting out of control in Delhi.

Therefore, in the context of India, we have significant set of challenges that differ across states and while some states can open, India’s political and financial capitals seem to be struggling at the moment.

Even as there are calls for another lockdown in Delhi, it is imperative that we recognise the need to get back to work.

A lockdown is not a solution to containing the spread of the disease but what is instead needed is to restrict social gatherings while mandating social distancing norms. We must recognise that the marginal benefits of lockdown no longer justify the excessive costs that come along with it.

Moreover, there is data that suggests that Covid-19 is not as deadly as it was once perceived, and this makes it important for us to put out evidence from recent research on the subject. Below is an excerpt from a blog by Dr Arvind Virmani and Dr Surjit Bhalla.

“First, that higher temperatures mean lower deaths; second that countries with a higher aged male population (greater than 79 years) have a greater death vulnerability; and third, higher urbanization leads to more deaths. However, we find that access to health care facilities (as proxied by availability of hospital beds) does diminish the possibility of death from COVID.”
(Click here for a series of blogs that document current research based on global data)

This makes it clear that high temperature, younger populations and relatively lower level of urbanisation means less Covid-19 related deaths for India. India’s recovery rate across states has improved and we have a lot of states with more recoveries than active cases.

This suggests that indeed, there is a possibility that the pandemic may not affect us as severely as it was once perceived. This may be a controversial statement considering the steady increase in the number of cases that we are witnessing. However, for a country with over a billion people, India has indeed managed the pandemic well.

These facts are important as they reflect the need to clamp down on the fear which has spread across the country as people are scared to go out, even as lockdown restrictions are eased.

It is important to communicate that for those below 40 and without co-morbidities, the death rate is around 1 per cent.

There is a definite need to spread awareness, encourage people to adopt hygienic practices and be vigilant to prevent contacting the disease. However, fear in the minds of people owing to misrepresentation of data will only weaken our fight against this pandemic.

Indeed, places like Delhi have made errors in managing the pandemic and there is an urgent need for the central government to intervene, even if temporarily to scale up the testing and ramp up the city’s healthcare infrastructure.

Converting some of our stadiums into temporary hospitals should also be considered as a viable option.

However, another round of lockdown will not be successful in containing either the spread or in moderating the number of deaths from the spread of SARS-Cov-19.

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