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'No lockdown; division of country into zones': Lancet task force suggests measures to fight COVID-19

BusinessToday.In     May 3, 2021

The Lancet India Task Force on COVID-19 has suggested certain measures in order to fight coronavirus in the country. It has suggested a 'containment measures checklist' for the central government. It said that these measures must be implemented beyond the "current binary discussion on a lockdown". Among a host of suggestions, the panel said that lockdown is not an option.

The Lancet panel said that unlike what is being recommended by many, lockdown is not an option. There is no single policy option of a complete lockdown, it said. "A series of actions are needed," said the panel, elaborating that targeted containment is required as well as a coordinated response. "The exact steps taken may differ based on local contexts. In areas where infections are spreading rapidly, short, severe closures may be required; where case counts are low, containment measures may be appropriate," it said.

"With over 2.7 million active cases, the healthcare system is under severe strain. It is imperative, therefore, to reduce the continuous rise in new cases," said the panel.

The committee suggested dividing the country into zones -- low risk zones, medium risk zones and hotspots. Places where rate of increase of new cases is less than 2 per cent and available ICU beds is more than 80 per cent can be categorised as low risk zones, while places where rate of increase is 2-5 per cent, positivity ratio is 5-10 per cent and available ICU beds between 40-80 per cent can be categorised as medium risk zones.

Places that have a rate of increase of more than 5 per cent and test positivity ratio is more than 10 per cent with less than 40 per cent available ICU beds can be categorised as hotspots. There should be restrictions on movement here, stated the Lancet panel and schools and colleges must be closed till numbers fall to medium risk category. Shops, restaurants, offices, places of worship, factories must be shut for 6-10 weeks.

The Lancet task force said that saving lives is a priority and that there is still time to ramp up medical infrastructure in medium and low risk zones. Complete ban on gatherings of more than 10 persons, closure of all venues where such gatherings can take place, closure of indoor spaces (offices and office buildings, schools, restaurants with indoor dining, shops and shopping malls, places of worship), except for those providing essential services, mandatory universal mask-wearing in confined spaces and outdoors are some of the other suggestions by the panel.

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