Coronavirus | Opeds and editorials

Team India and winning the pandemic battle

When will we move COVID-19 from a tense present to past tense? That question hangs perplexingly and lies posed before an embattled world and an anxious India. As we look to the possible end of the 21-day national lockdown, what next? Is there an early timeline for return to normalcy or will we have to wait for years to regain the vigour and the vitality of life as before in a reconnected world?

Self-reliance is the way

India has to chart its own strategy, whether it is in planning a staged release from the lockdown or in developing domestic capacity for medical equipment. There will be a need for scientific and economic cooperation with the rest of the world, but self-reliance is the rudder that must steer our ship as we sail through these rough seas. Globalisation lies shredded as we read of French and German officials protesting at the Americans seizing shipments of masks that they had ordered from China, in what is being called “guerre des masques” (war of the masks).

Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India | State-wise tracker for coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates | Helpline numbers

For charting our course ahead, we have to answer several questions. Did the lockdown benefit us and will we gain further by extending it fully or partially? Will we be in a position to gear up the capacity of our health system for effective public health and health-care responses across the country within the next few weeks if there is a surge in cases? How can we triage our response strategies to best use our limited resources? Are there favourable factors which suggest that India will have a less extensive spread or a milder manifestation of illness? What kind of partnerships need to be mobilised in the country to develop and deliver an effective response?

Moving forward

The impact of a three-week lockdown on reducing infectivity cannot be gauged well till the third week because the virus has an incubation period that can extend up to 14 days, though the vast majority of cases clinically emerge by 11 days. Whether there are already infected cases that will spread outdoors after the lockdown will be gauged by clinical criteria (syndromic surveillance) and testing (using viral or antibody tests as indicated). House-to-house surveillance being implemented in Andhra Pradesh, even during the lockdown, involves accredited village and block level volunteers partnering front line health workers to identify symptomatic persons for later visits by medical teams. The involvement of designated volunteers and community-based organisations can greatly enhance case detection, isolation, counselling, severity-based care and social support. Potentially favourable factors for India are the younger age profile and a higher rural proportion of our population compared to China, Europe, the United States or other highly affected countries whose populations are older, urban and highly mobile. However, this enjoins us to energetically protect the elderly and rural segments of our population. Restricting urban to rural movement to essential goods and essential needs, for at least six weeks after the lockdown ends, will help. The health, nutrition and financial security of the poor must be ensured. Elderly persons too should observe social distancing and limit visits outside home for this period. Essential economic activity can be resumed in stages.

We would be entering June by this time. By then, we should have a better picture of the spread and severity of the epidemic in different parts of the country. That would need a greater level of testing to detect both asymptomatic and symptomatic persons who have been infected, through random population sampling in different parts of the country. We should quickly gear up our testing capacity to meet this mapping mandate. Hotspots should be identified, based on numbers of self-referred symptomatic cases, persons identified on home visits and population survey results. These should be ring fenced, with intense search for contacts and active spreaders, with further localised lockdown as needed.

Download The Hindu’s multi-language e-book on essential COVID-19 information

The height of summer in June may also give us some respite, if not full relief. There is some evidence that this virus too, like other coronaviruses, is likely to wane in hot weather. Other suggestions, of protection from malaria endemicity and past BCG vaccination, are speculative and based on correlation studies which do not qualify for inference of causation. Crowded living conditions and propensity to have myriad mass gatherings, for political, religious or social reasons, can be our undoing if we do not enforce discipline.

Even if some factors favour us, our ability to quell the epidemic will depend on how well political will and professional skill can shape a coherent, countrywide multi-sectoral response. Think of it as a game of cricket. Even if the pitch conditions favour us, we still have to play well to win. If COVID-19 is the batsman scoring freely, the health system is the bowler trying to tie him down and get him out. Full support is needed from the other sections of the government who form the close-in field and the citizens who are guarding the out-field. Everyone has to be on their toes, avoiding a poor health system response (loose balls), supply chain delays (dropped catches) and social distancing violations (misfields). No huddles please!

Focus on health services

We also need to make sure that our health-care system provides timely and competent care to all who need. Primary health-care facilities, district hospitals, public and private tertiary care institutions have to gear up with equipment and augment human resources drawn both from trainees and retirees. Considering the higher risk to older health-care providers, the first line of care should be formed by younger staff members who will have milder effects even if infected. The older staff members can provide supervisory support. This will prevent attrition of the health workforce due to exhaustion or illness. Temporary hospitals for treatment and isolation facilities for persons on quarantine may need to be set up at short notice. Industry must produce essential medical equipment and drugs to meet our needs and, if capacity permits, assist other countries.

This has to be our game plan, with flexibility to change the field settings and bowling options as we reassess the situation periodically. Let us get going, to win this match as Team India.

Dr. K. Srinath Reddy is President, Public Health Foundation of India. The views expressed are personal


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 6:50:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/team-india-and-winning-the-pandemic-battle/article31312597.ece

In This Package
Stopping the surge: On unlock and the next COVID-19 wave
A welcome spike: On India’s COVID-19 vaccination record
A time to give: On ex-gratia compensation to families of COVID-19 victims
Focus on COVID-19 estimated deaths
What needs to be done with vaccines
Counting the dead: On measuring excess deaths
Refocused vaccination campaigns are possible
Bring genomic sequencing into the pandemic fight
Preparing for the next COVID-19 wave
Connecting the dots to mitigate a third wave
The red flags on the trail of the virus
Behaviorial change can reduce transmission
Adverse changes, federalism imperilled
Close the vaccination gap, in global lockstep
Only a global effort can tame COVID-19
Addressing vaccine hesitancy
Naturally, selection: On vaccinating the vulnerable in 18+ group
Vaccination is our only weapon
Extending safety: On deferring second dose of COVID-19 vaccine
The AIDS fight offers a COVID vaccine patent pathway
The basics of an effective vaccine policy
Using all options: On Covaxin licensing
State action: On Centre’s role in COVID-19 fight
COVID mishandling foretold in the Budget
A matter of concern: On Indian coronavirus variant
Vaccine skirmishes: On production of COVID-19 vaccine
Lockdown gains: On need to augment health system
Social murder and the missing state
A CT scan for COVID merits a word of caution
To stop a third wave, India has to mask up
Is the government committed to vaccine equity?
Salutary steps: On Election Commission norms to curb COVID-19 spread
Shortage and wastage: On cutting vaccine wastage
Gasping for air, gasping for answers
Misinformed and misleading
Right priorities: On U.S. COVID-19 aid to India
A patently wrong regime
Tips for managing COVID-19 at home: the dos & don’ts
Undermining ‘vaccination for all’
Another wave spells more nutrition loss
Unfair and dangerous: On vaccine inequity
Viral load: On lockdowns, lives and livelihoods
The road ahead in India’s augmented vaccination drive
Infernal infernos: On hospital fires amid the pandemic
Too little: On the Election Commission’s COVID-19 curbs
India’s COVID crisis — when difficult became worse
A descent into disillusionment and chaos
Open and safe: On Modi government’s vaccination policy
A recipe for vaccine inequity
Vaccine diplomacy that needs specific clarifications
On the trail of the second wave’s dynamics
How can India contain the second wave?
Lessons from the first wave
Examination priorities: On annual exams amid the pandemic
The secrecy around deaths after vaccination
Indian universities need immediate vaccination
Lessons from COVID-19
The second wave: On why new COVID-19 vaccines should be cleared
Weighing in on the saga of a vaccine
Rising poverty: On pandemic-induced disparities
A booster shot for India’s vaccination plan
Allaying concerns: On public trust and vaccination programmes
A moral test: On the vaccine divide
Efficacious too: On Covaxin
Sustaining the drive: On COVID-19 vaccination phase 2
Vaccine inequities: On need to vaccinate all above 45
Addressing vaccine reluctance and policy hesitancy
Redefining the exit plan for COVID-19
Boosting confidence: On need for efficient use of COVID-19 vaccine stocks
Opening up the vaccine market
Origin and spread: On the source of SARS-CoV-2
New questions: On COVID-19 infecting one-fifth of Indian population
A year on, mind the gaps in the pandemic response
Should Board exams be conducted in one go this year?
No to vaccine nationalism, yes to global cooperation
Tempered optimism: On India’s sliding COVID-19 graph
The best shot against COVID-19
More vaccines than takers
Managing the rollout: On addressing vaccine hesitancy
Injecting confidence: On India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
Vaccine optimism and the scientific uncertainty link
Building trust in vaccines
The debilitating side-effect of a flawed vaccine trial
Gearing up: On vaccines and public trust
A hurried gamble: On vaccines and transparency
The second dose: On COVID-19 vaccine
A constant vigil: On the new coronavirus strain in India
Unmasked, reflections on the pandemic and life
Caution pays: On Centre’s COVID-19 surveillance guidelines
Towards an effective vaccination distribution policy
Essential dry run: On COVID-19 vaccination drive
COVID-19 and limits of political accountability
The purpose of a vaccine
Clear the fog, draw up a clear vaccination policy
Rein in the vaccine nationalism, the profiteering
In vaccine race last lap, the key steps for India
The storage tale of two vaccines
T-cell immunity and COVID-19
COVID-19, climate and carbon neutrality
Signs of easing: On India’s COVID-19 fight
Has India passed the COVID-19 peak?
Sooner, better: On indigenously developed COVID-19 test kits
The battered Puja economy
Outline of a pandemic fight, by and for citizens
Pandemics and the collective consciousness
Vaccines with a global common good guarantee
Saving lives under the long shadow of the pandemic
Until vaccine: On Unlock 5
The challenge of changing health behaviour
Weighing the costs: On COVID-19 vaccine
The slow and frustrating journey of recovering from COVID-19
Health worker safety deserves a second look
Unlocking campuses: On UGC’s revised academic calendar
Recovery from COVID-19 can be a struggle
Uniting to combat COVID-19
Coronavirus fears and preconception advice
An agriculture-led revival as flawed claim
A necessary pause: On the COVID-19 vaccine race
The uncertainties over COVID-19 numbers
The challenges in counting the dead
COVID-19 deaths may be higher than reported
The many challenges in estimating deaths
Alone at the top: On India’s COVID-19 numbers
The participants we need in Phase 3 trials
Differential impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown
More than a vaccine, it is about vaccination
COVID-19 and a country club India must leave
A quest for order amid cyber insecurity
Adopting a public systems approach to COVID-19
Milestone of a million: On India’s COVID-19 numbers
Testing times: On university exams
Predictions, pandemics and public health
It’s time to flatten the pandemic stereotyping
Viral outrage only spikes the data
Sending the right message
Needed: Clear testing data
The social contract needs to be rewritten
The pandemic is about eyes shut
Joblessness and opportunity in Tamil Nadu
Green-lighting ecological decimation amidst a pandemic
COVID-19 has no religion
A case for extension: On rural jobs scheme
Surely, even if slowly: On a COVID-19 vaccine
Bend it like Italy: On flattening the COVID-19 curve
Promise and delivery: On India’s first COVID-19 vaccine
States hold the key: On Unlock 2.0
PCR testing is a double-edged sword
Science vs nonsense: On Patanjali’s COVID-19 claim
Shut and open: On tennis during the pandemic
The perils of follow the leader syndrome
The many questions about Favipiravir
In new lockdown, a second chance for Tamil Nadu
United front in Delhi: On Kejriwal government-Centre camaraderie
A prescription of equitable and effective care
Multilateralism post COVID-19
Making public transport safe during COVID-19
A better rate: On COVID-19 recovery
Look back in relief: On the migrant labour crisis
Needed, a transfusion for public health care
Wrong priorities: On keeping religious places open during a pandemic
Crossing the line: On Delhi’s decision to limit health services
Profit, not profiteering: On regulation of COVID-19 testing charges
In Persian Gulf littoral, cooperative security is key
Paging the private sector in the COVID fight
Curves and recoveries: On India’s coronavirus numbers
India’s Parliament is missing in action
Axing the economy’s trunk
Scripting a new narrative for COVID control
Open with caution: On Unlock 1
It’s time for a universal basic income programme in India
The waning of subaltern solidarity for Hindutva
Export blocks: On India’s trade amid the pandemic
A moment to trust the teacher
The echo of migrant footfalls and the silence on policy
Enjoying the fruits of their labour
Helping supply chains recover
The heavy burden of social suffering
An effective lockdown
The lockdown has highlighted stark inequalities
Will sport be the same in empty stadia?
Cinema after COVID-19
The eternal longing for the distant home
Working safely: On workplaces during the pandemic
A hole in the whole: On health sector woes
China, better prepared for the post-COVID world
How public health boosts an economy
Keep it retrospective
Backing the ‘angels in white coats’
Standstill: On opening of stadia for training
Flawed stimulus is justice denied
We need social physicians
A callous response
Peaking: On India’s coronavirus tally
Farm gate in focus: On amending Essential Commodities Act
A question of quarantine: On migrant workers and other travellers
TASMAC tribulations: On Tamil Nadu liquor sale
The pandemic and the challenge of behaviour change
One for the poor: On Centre’s corona package
Lockdown syndrome: On virus-induced economic crisis
Are India’s labour laws too restrictive?
Stop the return to laissez-faire
States cannot be left to the Centre’s mercy
Local motif: On Modi’s call for self-reliance
Liquidity lifeline: On Nirmala’s MSME package
A plan to revive a broken economy
Provide income support, restore jobs
Perilous state: On State finances
COVID-19 and the path ahead
Reaffirm cooperative federalism
Riding roughshod over State governments
Tragedy on the tracks: On the killing of 16 migrant workers
Coming to terms: On India refusing to admit community transmission
The trends shaping the post-COVID-19 world
The epidemic and ensuring safety in courts
Responding to COVID-19 at the grassroots
The face of exploitation
Contempt for labour: On dilution of labour laws
Slower growth and a tighter fiscal
Back home: On return of Indian expatriates
Blame game: On Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric over COVID-19
Resuscitating multilateralism with India’s help
A war-like state and a bond to the rescue
Fear and loathing in the land of the free
Everyone wants a good stimulus
Rent control amidst pandemic
Slow release: On lockdown 3.0
No comfort in numbers: On Bengal’s coronavirus cases
Pandemics without borders, South Asia’s evolution
India’s disease surveillance system needs a reboot
No relief for the nowhere people
BRICS against COVID-19
Recovering early: On India’s COVID-19 patients
It’s about food, nutrition and livelihood security
Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol shows how it is done
Needed: a pandemic patent pool
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Plasma therapy is no silver bullet
Take care of yourself too, fellow journalists
Strategic shift: On home isolation of mild coronavirus cases
Coping with today, planning for tomorrow
No end in sight: On India’s coronavirus strategy
Vividly imagining the life of migrant workers
A task for South Asia
Privacy concerns during a pandemic
Unlocking justice in the lockdown
Safe return: On migrant worker distress
The outline of another pandemic combat strategy
Pandemic and panic: On Tamil Nadu’s five-city lockdown
Protecting the poor from becoming poorer
Did SARS-CoV-2 begin from a lab?
Protection for protectors: On safety of healthcare workers
Rapid failures: On antibody testing kits
The COVID-19 paradox in South Asia
Fishing in troubled waters during a pandemic
How will India emerge out of the lockdown?
Making doctors wash hands
Locked out of cities, homes and livelihoods
Script of unity: On coronavirus and social prejudices
Exploiting a pandemic: On Trump’s immigration policy
The village is still relevant
A time for planetary solidarity
There may be no going back
No transparency in West Bengal
Focus on the curve: On India’s COVID-19 numbers
Economy in lockdown: On India’s worst case scenario
A shot of hope with a game changing vaccine
Caught in the heightened arc of communal polemics
Singing the corona tune
Helping a lending hand: On RBI’s second lockdown stimulus
A season of change: On IMD forecast system
A virus, social democracy, and dividends for Kerala
Across the gulf: On stranded Indian workers
Virtual reality: On telemedicine
A blueprint to revive the economy
A case to use JEE-Main instead of JEE-Advanced this year
Will the aviation industry recover from the pandemic?
Data-driven reporting during COVID-19
Stress test: On revised lockdown guidelines
Disastrous decision: On Trump halting funds to WHO
Cease the distractions, seize the moment
Getting the containment strategy in India right
In India’s response, a communications failure
Harmonising with nature
End the harassment of farmers now
A narrowing window: On extension of lockdown
Corona bond: On Eurozone COVID-19 rescue package
Halting the march of rumours
Polls during a pandemic
The pandemic and the contours of a health response
Economic liberalisation and its faults
Invasive, alien, most fearsome
Trade in tatters: On the global slump
Wanted, a collective national endeavour
Disingenuous and no antidote
COVID-19 and the crumbling world order
Women’s safety during lockdown
Lives and livelihoods: On economy after lockdown
Stage fright: On denying community transmission
You are reading
Team India and winning the pandemic battle
In time of need: On hydroxychloroquine export
Will COVID-19 affect the course of globalisation?
Finding a scapegoat in WHO
Curating news for children during pandemic
A time for extraordinary action
For better use: On MPLADS funds
Needed, greater decentralisation of power
A key arsenal in rural India’s pandemic fight
Preparing for exit: On lifting the lockdown
Sanctions and pandemic: On America’s Iran policy
‘A script of action, responsibility and compassion’: Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot writes on Rajasthan’s fight against COVID-19
Taking a long view of the pandemic fight
Ten questions posed by the virus
A different economic approach
Why healthcare workers above 60 should be ‘benched’
Enemy at the gates: On Kerala-Karnataka border row
Reducing farm distress during a pandemic
Why everyone should wear masks
The criticality of community engagement
A niggardliness that is economically unwarranted
The spectre of a post-COVID-19 world
Light and sound: On Narendra Modi’s 9-minute light ceremony
A million and counting: On global coronavirus spread
Safe forests, safe people: On diseases of animal origin
Quarantine and the law
Making the private sector care for public health
Looking east to contain COVID-19
Limits to rugged individualism
Uncritical endorsement: On exodus of migrant workers and the Supreme Court
Beyond the blame game: On the Tablighi Jamaat episode
A long road: On India’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown
The missing notes: On politics and the fight against COVID-19
China’s zero: On China’s lead in containing coronavirus
Unprecedented step: On Wuhan lockdown
The return of the expert
Lessons from Hubei
A pandemic in an unequal India
Faith can’t override public health
Devising a people-centric response to COVID-19
Karnataka CM writes on how the State is fighting the pandemic
Tamil Nadu CM writes on how the State is stopping the pandemic in its tracks
The hunt for a cure begins with telling the truth
COVID-19 and a city’s anatomy
Long live the nation-state
The COVID cycle
Coronavirus | The worst of times, the best of times
It’s also a fight against punitive measures
The age of the neoliberal virus
The deep void in global leadership
Thinking national, acting local
Every man is a part of the main
Beyond social distancing to fight COVID-19
Next Story