Govt must focus on preventing deaths from COVID-19: epidemiologists

A view of samples during rapid antigen testing drive at a mobile testing van, in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The government’s focus should be to prevent deaths from COVID-19 and no longer on containing the infection, says a statement jointly issued by the Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), the Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and the Indian Association of Epidemiologists.

India now accounts for the highest number of increase in cases globally.

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Lockdowns have outlived their utility in India and schools should be reopened in a graded manner, according to a joint statement by the three leading epidemiologist associations—some of whose members are a part of the government's national COVID task force.

The statement said:

“Lockdown as a strategy for control should be discontinued. Geographically limited restrictions for short periods may be imposed in epidemiologically defined clusters... In large cities where already there has been substantial spread, there is NO (sic) advantage of creating containment zones and aggressive testing.

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“In cities with a high number of cases, symptomatic patients (even if they don’t test positive) should be treated at home or hospital depending on the degree of severity. Most patients should be monitored through phones and pulse oximeter readings followed up and these should be used to take decisions on early hospitalisations.

“However in cities and rural areas where the infections are ‘moderate’ or extremely limited, containment zones as well as isolating those who might carry the infection ought to be implemented strictly. Moreover practices such as labelling houses with those afflicted, as ‘positive’ should be done away with. ‘Social stigma’ was a key factor that kept people with symptoms from coming forward and getting tested.

Also read: Coronavirus | 13 districts account for nearly 9% COVID-19 active cases, 14% deaths: Health Ministry

“Houses of all persons who test positive, are stamped, isolated by barricades is creating a fear in society. This practice should be abandoned immediately.

“It’s time now to move towards normalcy. Opening of school and other educational institutions could be started in graded manner. There should be a pragmatic approach, especially in areas where sufficient population is already infected with SARS CoV-2.”

The statement is available online at the website of the IPHA. On May 31, the group of epidemiologists criticised the government for not taking field-level epidemiologists, and “overly relying” on modelling estimates to take decision on the lockdown, which ended up triggering a migrant crisis.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 8:42:36 AM |

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