Andhra Pradesh

Opening up of red light areas may lead to spike in COVID-19 cases, deaths: study

The district may witness a significant surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and fatalities if the red light zones at Chilakaluripeta and other areas open up, says a study by medical experts at Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

The study further says that extended closure of the red light zones may reduce the COVID-19 cumulative deaths by 75% and cumulative cases by 73% at the peak of the pandemic, which can also be delayed by an additional 23 days.

Sentinel surveillance study had once shown Guntur in the top place in the country in the HIV-AIDS infection rate. Over the years, the rate of infection dropped gradually due to some aggressive drive against prostitution and campaign against unprotected sex.

Transmission rate

“If the red light areas start operating, the disease will spread quickly and infect a large percentage of sex workers and customers. The high transmission rate is because there will be no social distancing. The infected customers will spread the disease throughout the city. Therefore, the red light areas have a combination of factors that can make them the largest hotspot in Andhra Pradesh,” says the study.

The study, ‘Modelling the Effect of Continued Closure of Red-Light Areas on COVID-19 Transmission in India’, was conducted by Abhishek Pandey, Pratha Sah, Chad Wells, Alison P. Galvani at the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, Yale University, and Sudhakar V. Nuti at the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and Jeffrey P. Townsend, Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health.

The coalition, Code Red COVID, comprises doctors and researchers from 14 countries, who are advising the governments on the threat of high-risk hotspots, which include the red light areas.

The model for the study was applied by the coalition to the red light areas across India, including those in Guntur district.

In a comparative study of various models, it was found that Japan did not close down the red light areas in time and saw an “explosion” in the cases that left local hospitals “overwhelmed.”

India would need 70% more hospital beds by the peak if the red light areas reopened instead of staying closed.

If the Chilakaluripet red light area was reopened, it could put Guntur in a tight spot sooner than later. Fewer sick people would be able to receive treatment causing an increase in preventable deaths.

“It should be obvious that prostitutes can become epidemiological super spreaders — sexual activities are, as a rule, not compatible with social distancing measures,” said the study talking about the German model.

Sahayakan, member of Code Red Coalition, said, “None of the protection measures like distancing, masks, or sanitising can effectively stop COVID-19 transmission during sex work, which cannot be safely practised in the red light areas in India given their nature. It can result in many cases and deaths in sex workers and citizens.”

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 11:02:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/opening-up-of-red-light-areas-may-lead-to-spike-in-covid-19-cases-deaths-study/article31927854.ece

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