Lessons to follow after lockdown

May 04, 2020 11:50 pm | Updated 11:51 pm IST

Dr. Gandham Nagarjuna, physician and epidemiologist

Dr. Gandham Nagarjuna, physician and epidemiologist

Physical distancing and personal hygiene seem to be the main weapon to combat COVID-19. “Life over Livelihood” is slowly getting replaced with “Livelihood over Life” given the nature of our country where 70% of the people live by that day’s work for that day’s survival. Instead of implementing a strict complete lockdown for short time, a long-term nationwide partial lockdown in some sectors with shorter complete lockdown in hot spots with minimal socio-economic interventions and strict implementation of safe practices is better.

On a positive note, the lockdown could facilitate the Central and regional governments to fine-tune its policy guidelines by bringing all registered specialists, including epidemiologists, strategists and scientists spread across the nation on a common web portal.

While releasing the lockdown in phases, it is very important to clearly define the criteria for every phase, as there is a possibility of a second wave which can be more severe than the first wave.

High-risk population

Instead of doing screening testing for the population in general, the priority should be testing high risk groups, such as contacts of people working in COVID hospitals, quarantine centres, COVID-testing labs, cemeteries and graveyards, as well as attendees involved with COVID positive case and people who are allowed to travel with passes and handling essential services, as well as the general population in identified red zones.

Isolating and quarantining suspected COVID-19 cases should be in community/marriage halls and hotels.

Handling bodies

During pandemics of this magnitude, all deaths, unless tested negative, should be considered as COVID positive cases. The staff should be well trained to handle infected dead bodies with complete PPE.

Family members should be counselled not to handle the body directly, and they should be allowed to see the body only after placing the body in a transparent sealed leak proof plastic cover, which has been sprayed with disinfectants.

The body should be handed over to the Corporation office for cremation. The body should not be kept in the mortuary.

Some crematoriums should operate round-the-clock to avoid storing the body for long.

There should be restrictions to allow only 10 members with all social distancing and disinfection protocols followed at the funeral process.

Safe practices

The governments should mandate that their staff should not travel beyond their containment zones, and if necessary, manpower across all levels should be deputed on long-term basis from their existing government offices to those within their containment zone.

The same applies to employees of the semi-government, quasi government, public limited and private limited units.

Educational institutions across the country should not be re-opened till all restrictions are lifted. In the meanwhile, they can avail online services.

Entertainment industry, tourism industry and public gathering should be the last to reopen.

Factory owners should be able to run their units in total isolation, if within city limits or otherwise.

Temporary tents or vacant flats near industries and factories should be made available to accommodate workers during the entire lockdown period.

Labour should only be allowed from green zone areas. Thermal screening and health profiling should be done on a daily basis.

Courier, postal (includes letters, domestic and industrial parcels) and cargo services involve multiple handling of parcels across various travel zones.

The items should be covered with a strong leak proof plastic cover, and sprayed with disinfectant at each transit point.

All persons in contact with the parcels from the pick-up point till delivery should use proper PPE and disinfection measures in handling the parcel, including using digital non-touch methods for getting acknowledgements.

Courier pick-up and delivery persons should not travel across containment zones.

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