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Work from office for a week and from home for two weeks: Scientists suggest post lockdown plan

By Snehal Fernandes, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 12, 2020 11:43 PM IST

Split the workforce into three — one group clocks in to work for a week with the remaining two remain under lockdown for two weeks. This recommendation of an asynchronous, periodic lockdown comes from a multi-institute team, which has based its post-lockdown strategies on the first pan-India INDSCI-SIM model. The model was developed by the Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid-19 (ISRC), a voluntary group of more than 400 scientists and researchers, to reopen the economy.

Researchers said the asynchronous periodic lockdown — where each group’s turn for work comes cyclically after a specific period — is shown to be more effective than synchronous periodic lockdown. In the latter, the entire workforce heads to work for a fixed number of days and gets locked down for a fixed period of time.

“The duration of the infectivity of the disease is about 14 days. Even if one person catches the infection during the work week, she/he will be home for the next two weeks as per the asynchronous lockdown schedule,” said professor Bhalchandra Pujari of Savitribai Phule Pune University. “This will effectively lead to quarantining oneself as well as reducing the chance of transmitting the virus to others.”

However, the scientists said they would not recommend this schedule for states or cities such as Maharashtra or Mumbai where the number of infections are significantly rising every day. “The success of this method lies in the ability to be able to trace and test the working population easily, which is easiest when the number of infections is small and the number of those at work is also small,” said Gautam Menon, professor of biology and physics, Ashoka University, and adjunct faculty at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

In areas where the spread of Covid-19 is less extensive, asynchronous periodic lockdown combined with large-scale testing, tracing and quarantine would reduce stress on healthcare infrastructure while keeping the economy moving.

“The peak of hospitalised numbers is increased for the synchronous case vis-a-vis the asynchronous case resulting in more pressure on the health care system since many more people will require hospitalisation around the days when the peak occurs,” said Menon. “The number of people requiring hospitalisations is also spread over a longer period for the synchronous case. This means, more people overall requiring hospitalisation over the course of the epidemic.”

Fewer people at work also translates into better physical distancing, which will bring down the R0 (R nought), a number that denotes the number of people that can be infected by one individual who is suffering CoVid19. Obeying lockdown rules while not at work will further suppress the R0.

The ISRC team suggested that the feasibility of a synchronous periodic lockdown should also be examined. “Even with a synchronous lockdown, our model does indicate an improvement over relaxing the lockdown completely,” said Menon.

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