Make local lockdowns conditional
Evolve a protocol on how these lockdowns, if imposed, must be usedUpdated: Jul 15, 2020 20:05 IST
As Covid-19 cases continue to surge in new regions, India is witnessing another round of local lockdowns, where state governments have imposed restrictions in large parts of their state or key cities. The 68-day national lockdown offered several lessons to the country. One, restrictions can slow the spread of the infection but not
halt it. Two, the period needs to be used to improve health infrastructure, aggressively test and trace, and instil sustainable behavioural change. Three, any lockdown has tremendous economic costs.
In principle, there is nothing wrong if states/cities want to impose lockdowns to control infections. Such autonomy is in keeping with India’s federal setup. But any lockdown-related decision must be taken based on a comprehensive assessment. For instance, Bihar, which is in the middle of one such lockdown, has the lowest testing rate in the country. Anecdotal reports, from across India, suggest that safety measures such as social distancing and using masks are not being followed by a lot of people. A proliferation of local lockdowns may inconvenience citizens and add to the already difficult economic situation.
A vicious cycle of imposition and withdrawal of lockdowns cannot be allowed to become the norm. A national consensus needs to be evolved to make the imposition of lockdowns conditional — on what they are being utilised for, and the measures the state imposing a lockdown has already undertaken (including testing levels). Any such exercise must also have clearly defined goals, with resources marked to achieve those goals. The central government should take a lead in initiating this process and help devise a protocol.