Covid-19: Will containment zones work?
The Bhilwara model is being replicated. This is a good stepUpdated: Apr 09, 2020 18:51 IST
State governments have begun experimenting with the idea of containment zones to deal with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The mechanism is straightforward. Those clusters which have seen a rise in cases — and have shown traces of rapid transmission — are sealed. This can be in the form of a housing society, a neighbourhood, or even a district. Not only is the lockdown in the identified cluster enforced more strictly, there is also a complete ban on the movement of residents. Even essential supplies are delivered at home. Movement into these zones is limited to a small set of officials and health care workers. There is also aggressive screening and enhanced testing in these clusters.
The strategy is based on the belief that this would allow authorities to identify each person who is infected, offer isolation and treatment, and reduce their interface — and the interface of all those they may have come in contact with — with the outside world. This would, thus, contain, the infection to a specific geography and eventually diminish its spread. It is broadly inspired by what has come to be known as the Bhilwara model of “ruthless containment”. In Rajasthan, the state government pioneered this method to tame the infection after health workers in a hospital first got infected.
The containment zones cause inconvenience to citizens, by restricting their mobility almost entirely and making them dependent on state officials and select private vendors for supplies. But this inconvenience, and the temporary curtailment of rights, is worth it for the larger objective of containing the disease. The fact that this model has now been expanded will also help the government judge its efficacy beyond Bhilwara. It will need time. But if, within a fortnight, cases in these select clusters diminish, those who have got infected get treated, deaths are avoided or kept to a minimal, and the chain of transmission is broken, it will emerge as a model whenever the lockdown is eventually lifted. It must be acknowledged that Covid-19 is a new threat, and therefore, public health strategies are still relying on experiments. This makes it incumbent on governments to emulate best practices. The possible benefits in declaring containment zones far outweigh the costs.