Covid-19: Is total lockdown the answer?

The state government is yet to conduct a scientific analysis of the state Covid-19 situation either through its agencies or researchers in the academic institutions of the state to understand the emerging trend and realities on the ground. The opinions of a few experts in the Covid-19 Consultative Committee or Task Forces would not be sufficient enough to understand the situation.

Even with the steep rise in Covid-19 positive numbers in the last few days, the chief minister’s proposal to reimpose total lockdown in the state came as a surprise. While dailies are flooded with calls about the impending lockdown, nobody seems to question the logic of imposing total lockdown once again, though a few skeptics are targeting the state government alleging poor management of the pandemic.

The state government’s latest strategy to check the surge in Covid numbers through focused containment areas was widely appreciated.

After total lockdown in some areas of Thangmeiband constituency, a few voices of protest rose from some localities, citing recovery of positive cases.

But, this strategy of ‘focused containment’ is a good idea and this needs to be followed up further.

So, this sudden proposal from Chief Minister N Biren Singh came as a surprise. This is like pressing the panic button all too soon. And again, such a move will be against the spirit of the Unlock process started by the Union government to rejuvenate the ailing economy hit hard by the lockdown.

After spending almost a fifth of the year (68 days) under lockdown, the country had started resuming normal activities, albeit with significant safeguards from June 8. The plan, called Unlock 1.0 removed restrictions on places of worship, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants, and inter- and intra-state travel. All activities that were prohibited earlier was opened up in areas outside Containment Zones in a phased manner, with the stipulation of following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed by the Health Ministry.

The plan had an “economic focus”, as the government strives to bring stalled businesses and activities back on track and revive the third largest economy in Asia that is in the grip of a slowdown due to the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown prompted by the pandemic.

Under Unlock 5.0 which started on October 15 cinemas, theatres, multiplexes, entertainment parks, and swimming pools used for training of sportspersons outside containment zones were allowed to open.

The other big thing was that states and Union territories are now allowed to move towards reopening of schools from October 15.

However, states and UTs have been specifically disallowed from imposing any local lockdowns except in containment zones, in consultation with MHA. In view of this MHA restriction, the state government seems to have written to the ministry, seeking its approval to the proposed lockdown.

We must remember that the state imposed another lockdown a few weeks ago following a rapid surge in positive cases, even as the Unlock process started in the country. What good it did to check the spread? We have to consider that also.

Yes, we agree that there has to be state-specific issues and strategies in fighting the pandemic as situations are different across the country. But, there has to be a sound reasoning to the proposal for imposing another lockdown.

The economy of the state and of individuals had just started limping back from the devastating lockdown while the poor and needy are still reeling under the impact of the pandemic.

Moreover, the state government is yet to conduct a scientific analysis of the state Covid-19 situation either through its agencies or researchers in the academic institutions of the state to understand the emerging trend and realities on the ground.

The opinions of a few experts in the Covid-19 Consultative Committee or Task Forces would not be sufficient enough to understand the situation.

The state needs to seek and rely on scientific data analysis before arriving at a solution or strategy in combatting the pandemic. It would indeed be erroneous to evolve strategies on public opinion. We must say, any new strategy should be based on sound scientific data and analysis.

-Editorial

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First Published:Oct. 21, 2020, 10:47 a.m.

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