States hold the key: On Unlock 2.0

In Unlock 2.0, finely-tuned strategies for disease control and expansion of activity are needed

Published - July 01, 2020 12:02 am IST

The Home Ministry’s orders relaxing the lockdown in the Unlock 2.0 phase until July 31 provides for a wider resumption of activity in areas other than containment zones, while retaining, appropriately, the prohibition on mass gatherings. After the first phase of the national lockdown, the handling of the pandemic, crucially testing, tracing, quarantining and treating sicker patients to reduce infection spread and mortality, has come to depend on the capacity of individual States. India’s current case total, including 3,47,326 people who recovered and 17,403 who died, is in excess of half-a-million. With no prediction for when COVID-19 could peak, the latest announcement casts a heavy responsibility on the States. They are, of course, empowered to impose additional restrictions outside containment zones without impeding inter- and intra-State movement of people and goods. Some of them have learnt that community-level monitoring of influenza-like fever and respiratory illness and testing in a focused manner shows higher positivity rates; good serological testing in containment zones would add insight on the overall state of infections. Such fine-tuning of strategies, together with access to testing where indicated, will be crucial in the unlock phases. States must also realise that more activity could bring more patients to hospitals, which are already stretched in terms of fatigued health staff and available beds. Targeted lockdowns for smaller areas, and measures to encourage healthy behaviour hold the key to lower the incidence of cases. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal with a large caseload have extended their lockdown until July 31, a period that should be used to distribute masks to all residents, and ensure that the message of face-covering and distancing leads to full compliance.

Getting infection spread under control early should make it possible for the Centre to put in place a good system to handle domestic emergency travel, and facilitate more inward and outbound movement of stranded individuals. Several senior citizens have been caught abroad with inadequate access to health care and drugs due to the pandemic, especially in the U.S. Workers too are trapped in many countries. Within India, regulations that do not aid working from home need to be modified: they treat electronic equipment as non-essential and unavailable from e-commerce channels because of delivery restrictions in some cities. Self-certification for bank accounts has become due in the new financial year and should be postponed or handled online. Though the Centre has extended the provision of free foodgrain to 80 crore people for five more months, the quantum of rations at five kilos of grain and one kilo of pulses falls short of what families need in a month. In coming weeks, these social imperatives need to be addressed, while undertaking the formidable task of halting the upward trajectory of infections and deaths.


0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.