Can we afford ‘shutdown’ of ‘lockdown’?
With the upward trend of coronavirus, the new strain is wreaking havoc. The second wave has come at the wrong time. Our death rate, case detection is rising sharply. So what the government could do? People are taking lockdown for granted. This lockdown has not been able to contain the raging virus.
People who have taken the first dose of the vaccine are feeling carefree. This careless move has spread the virus before any immunity could come into play. For wearing a mask we are still seeing reluctance, though the mask is easily available and cheap. There has to be one solution when we have our backs to the wall. Lockdown can be the saviour?
If we remain separated for three weeks the virus will wane. The lockdown means all confined to own place not moving anywhere without an emergency. The lockdown has to be hard, unlike last year. If the virus cannot be transmitted from one person to other, within fourteen days it will die. This could be our last resort.
Experts believe after 14 days we will see downward trend of the disease. Do we have enough capacity to treat all patients? We have seen South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan has done exceedingly well to contain the disease. Will it be a risk to shut down the lockdown by all standards, within seven days? If we do a projection percentage-wise the number of cases will rise. We have no place for complacency. Before that economic implications have to keep in mind.
Alarmingly Bangladesh has more death rates compared to new case detection rates, one of the highest in the South Asian region. Most health care workers are being infected; we have seen cases rising around the sixty-day mark in many countries. So the month of April is crucial for us. We at times getting edgy, feeling pathetic, and staying home for long. Alas, any other option but lockdown could be suicidal. Knowingly or unknowingly one is infecting the other. If you are abiding by Covid laws, you are not doing any favour to others; rather it is you who is getting benefitted.
Keeping garments, NGOs open can wreak havoc, so closing all offices except emergency service is a timely, correct decision. To be very frank, that is our only option. We are seeing hospital outdoors is open, the health care workers are super spreaders. They should be allowed to open for limited period of time. Roster duty can be a solution. Big cities are being the hub of the virus. Districts like Dhaka, Narayangonj, Chittagong and Gazirur need to be under surveillance. Without a human host the virus will die. If we can isolate patients, quarantine them for this period, the virus will die.
The frontline fighters like doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and police officers are getting infected increasingly. We have already lost a huge number of physicians. The declaration to give two months basic salary to front liners could raise their moral. They are supposed to get proper protective equipment (PPE). Compared to Covid hospitals non-Covid hospital staffs are getting more infected. In a non-Covid institute, if health workers are not properly protected, we may see disaster.
The Lockdown measure needs the screws to be tightened. Only enforcement of law cannot be a solution, we need to be aware and self-conscious, self-motivated. We shall have to act as responsible citizen. One helping the other will end up helping himself. Total lockdown is an attempt to slow down the spread of coronavirus. We know that the lockdown will continue for seven days, after which the government will decide what to do. It will be wise if we see extension of the lockdown for another seven days. However, if we expect coronavirus will vanish by then, it will be a terrible mistake.
Experts say that social isolation only slows down the spread of the virus, but cannot completely stop it. Nearly 30% people who are infected do not experience any symptoms though, silently spreading the virus in their community. Social isolation helps a great deal, but only in terms of slowing down the increase of new cases. We will not be able to eradicate or stop coronavirus in this way. But choices are slender.
If social isolation and lockdowns do not stop coronavirus, then what is the other option? How long can we afford to keep people away from work, the economy at a standstill, and the earnings of most of us close to zero? After a few weeks of lockdown, even any prosperous country goes into a very precarious economic situation. How will it continue to pay government workers, keep essential services and hospitals running, and the population fed if nobody goes to work for months?
If the country is kept shut down for months, more people may die due to lack of food, basic health necessities such as sanitation and routine treatments even if not from coronavirus. The question is if there is no lockdown then what? One option is that a majority of the people will be infected and cured by their own immunity. It will take almost eighty percent people to be immunized before herd immunity is reached.
A global economic recession is continuing. It would probably take a year or two before the major economies recover from this. We shall have to be bold in our decision making. Citizens should wait for a few more days and co-operate the government by keeping themselves totally locked down for a week or two. Only then we will see light at the end of the tunnel, sooner than later.
Dr Zubair Khaled Huq, Family Medicine, Gerontology Public Health Specialist