With more curbs lifted, next couple of weeks will be crucial for Puducherry

People waiting in a queue to get themselves tested for COVID-19 at the Health and Wellness Centre at Kosapalayam in Puducherry. File   | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS

With more curbs lifted from the lockdown phase that ends at midnight on June 14, the next couple of weeks could be crucial in determining the impact of the unlocking on the COVID-19 situation, health officials say.

While new relaxations followed a consistent decline in fresh infections, positivity rate and mortalities, the administration is hoping to maintain the downward trend while opening up more economic activities.

For a large part of May, the Union Territory was reporting between 1,500 to 1,900 new cases a day while deaths were in the 20-30 range with a peak of 34 deaths on May 23, while since June 1, these numbers have come down to the 500-1,000 range with fatalities too dropping to around 10 or below.

While keeping people mostly indoors during the preceding phase of lockdown where essential shops and eateries functioned only till noon has been key to this outcome, officials say the health consequences of opening up more economic activities will be known only after a fortnight or so.

The ‘Puducherry model’ as Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan puts it, has been about balancing health interventions to bring down coronavirus numbers with the key competing necessity to keep the engine of informal economy humming and minimising livelihood loss.

“Unlocking of lockdown restrictions comes with a collective responsibility to remain disciplined in adopting COVID-appropriate behaviour. Declining numbers cannot be taken as a sign that the virus is going away, as new cases are still being reported every day,” said Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar.

He points out that it is very likely that a far greater proportion of the population may have been infected than the numbers detected from testing as was borne out by the findings of the sero survey done during the last surge. Therefore, the unlock phase places a collective responsibility on society to adopt COVID-appropriate behaviour, to not only keep everyone safe but also facilitate more robust relaxations going forward, he said.

Lockdowns as social interventions need to be backed by a complement of other health interventions to control a pandemic, health officials said. “Lockdowns are only a means to an end. A set of other initiatives was also central to bringing down incidence of morbidity and mortality,” said T. Arun, Health Secretary.

A range of capacity building initiatives, increased testing and manpower deployment were baked into the regime of social restrictions.

"The decentralising of testing to the level of PHCs meant that people were getting the facility within a small radius of one or two kilometres of their homes. Improved monitoring of home isolation patients through tele-triaging and house calls was also key," said Mr. Arun.

The administration is, meanwhile, launching an aggressive campaign to boost vaccination coverage with an intensive four-day camp for the 18+ segment on June 16. Alongside adoption of COVID-appropriate behaviour and enforcement by way of penalising those violating norms or not observing social distancing, there is the imperative need for 100% vaccination of all those eligible, officials said.

"Any negligence in undergoing vaccination may cause the virus to strike back. We have to understand its capacity to mutate as it has done in the past. The essential fact is that if Covid-appropriate behaviour is maintained and all eligible people get themselves vaccinated, we would be able to remain in the unlocked state and carry on with necessary economic activities and return to a normal life as far as possible," the Chief Secretary said.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 11:24:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/with-more-curbs-lifted-next-couple-of-weeks-will-be-crucial-for-puducherry/article34807402.ece

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