Thanks to the relaxation in the stringent measures of lockdown imposed as a preventive measure for the containment of the deadly global coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), there is now ample scope for divergent views about the pros and cons of the decision backed by experiences from people who have started meeting others, albeit not in a no-holds-barred manner. Probably what has gone unnoticed is the plain fact that the killer virus originating from Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province in central China with a population of 1.1 crore despite rattling the country of origin and spreading like a wildfire elsewhere, did not have any devastating effect initially in India.
But that solace was only shortlived. It was a different situation once people of Indian origin visiting other countries slowly started heading to their home country individually and in big groups. These foreign returnees were the prime suspects as they were the first reported COVID cases.
Later, most of the foreign nationals attending the Tablighi Jamaat markaz visiting different parts of the country became the official carriers. Along with them all those who came in contact also started getting infected giving rise to a hue and cry on public platforms and social networking sites.
Meanwhile, as a tactical step to check the spread of the century’s second pandemic after Plague in the 1920s’, voluntary Janata Curfew, the ringing of bells, lighting lamps, candles, cell phone torches following a nationwide call by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi paved the way for lockdown measures in three stages so far.
After two successive lockdown periods when there was less number of COVID cases and fatalities in comparison to the rest of the world suddenly the state and central governments woke up to several pitfalls during these lockdowns.
As an immediate adverse effect of the lockdown measures the economy which anyway was at a snail’s pace literally came to a grinding halt. The economic blockade left millions of migrant workers on a pathetic state of affairs. For having been prevented from returning to their native places they underwent a horrible period of their lifetime.
But slowly things started changing for the better. The restrictions for the poor migrant labourers were lifted and special trains and buses arranged for their safe return. Among such lakhs of people also included the students, pilgrims and tourists stuck in several parts of the country.
Now the third phase of lockdown is in progress but all the economic activities have been allowed to resume. Now the million-dollar question doing rounds in the concerned circles is whether such paradoxical running away stance from the grave problem will be of any little help?
Expert speaks on COVID possibilities
Dr SR Narahari is the director and chief dermatologist at the Institute of Applied Dermatology in Kasaragod, Kerala. The institute has successfully developed a model of integrated medicine and effectively treat Lymphatic Filariasis and other causes of Lymphedema thus bringing in relief to thousands of patients across India and South East Asia.
The IAD is today, the world’s lead lymphoedema and integrative medicine hospital and have been mentioned as the world’s lead lymphology clinic in one of the World Health Organisation (WHO) publications.
Dr Narahari belongs to a family of doctors as there are 11 doctors in the extended family. Even his wife and both sons are doctors. He has an interesting point to make in the present scenario.
Dr Narahari says, when asked about the behaviour of the virus post-lockdown, “How will the virus behave post-lockdown? The virus doesn’t know about lockdown or economy. But resurgence becomes inevitable once public transport is permitted.”
“India probably initiated the lockdown very early, the doctor said, “which helped in containing the spread. But at the same time wherever lockdown implementation didn’t work and as expected is now reporting a surge in the number of cases,” he reminds.
However, he dismisses large scale tragedy just like in the Western countries. He is of the firm opinion: “Herd immunity as part of the Indian population and younger age are in favour of taming the virus during the post-lockdown,” he said. Kerala doctors believe that virus itself is less virulent, he added.
Elderly in India, in general, avoid crowd, speed and disorderliness of the cities and towns. Hence, the death rate is likely to be lower in India post-lockdown, Dr Narahari said. “But the virus may get reactivated when the rainy season begins and could spread pan-India. Even then, it will cause less devastation unlike the Western countries,” he points out.
Dr Narahari has also a variety of reasons to substantiate his claims. For a lesser number of deaths due to COVID-19 post-lockdown, he cites the following factors: Health care workers and doctors of India, in general, are well trained and committed. Their ability for early diagnosis, better managing co-morbidities and life-saving abilities would help in the fight against the resurgence.
The virus itself is likely to become less pathogenic due to millions of multiplications in millions of humans in India. Ayurvedic and Homeopathic medicines and our home remedies are likely to benefit the Indian population. An ordinary Indian has the culture of Namaste and not embracing or shaking hands, not using tissue papers will be a great boon in preventing the spread, he opines.
His analysis about the success story of the coastal Kerala state in withstanding the onslaught of the virus is also interesting: Kerala identified the first case in late January while the first case was reported in Kasaragod on the 30th. In a way, Kerala benefits from the Malayalee migration to other places in the world, including Wuhan.
People and bureaucracy, especially health department, understand the developments around the world. Kerala has India’s best clinicians and health care providers and micro-level health facilities, he stresses.
On the brighter side, he takes pride to mention: The government health facility in Kerala is well equipped; Government health care providers are well paid, motivated and competitive. It is the primary reason to undertake early prevention activities, including setting up quarantine facilities for people returning from Wuhan.
Along with that, Dr Narahari elaborates: Kerala has an educated population and understands the importance of preventive measures. Well-connected but by their general culture population is restricted in movement within the state and socialising Malayalee favours Kerala Samajams and related community groups when they are outside the region.
But the stark reality he wishes to pinpoint is an environment unheard of in other parts of the country: Poor in Kerala never starve. Because of better social systems and peoples’ cooperation within society greatly benefited the government’s efforts in controlling COVID.
To conclude he also has a caution to make while tallying the COVID-19 deaths: Finally, the assessment of the mortality impact of COVID 19 in pan-India requires careful statistical evaluation. Due to the large population of India, death in numbers is always high compared to less populated nations. The number of diseases is also high in the country. All patients dying of old age, other conditions should be carefully eliminated before arriving at COVID-19 numbers.