With the current trends it is evident that a further rise in COVID-19 infection is expected as the country proceeds further into Unlock 1 mode. While the four lockdowns have helped us to slow down the virus spread and also helped us prepare our healthcare infrastructure to tackle the outbreak, it is now time to gradually open up the decelerated economy. However, this would require a greater effort from the Central and State governments as well as the community to contain the virus to the maximum extent possible.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) organised a Roundtable to deliberate on the future containment strategy for COVID-19 on Saturday. The Roundtable was attended by leading epidemiologists, public health experts and members from healthcare industry.
The experts shared their experiences and successful strategies for COVID containment as well as challenges from States of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi. While ample investments in public health systems over past few years, including primary care, have helped States like Kerala and Karnataka to keep their number on infections low; proactive government, testing of all symptomatic individuals have helped in controlled transmission.
It is essential that all other states focus on primary and preventive care, robust messaging and advisories at local level as well as increased testing. RT-PCR should be performed for all symptomatic patients to control the spread. We also need to ensure and advocate for reverse quarantine as well as protect our elderly who are the most vulnerable. It is also important that we guard our population from any stigma or discrimination.
Th experts also suggested that the society will now need to learn to live with Corona as a ‘New Normal’, just like we have been doing for Measles or TB. Herd immunity will automatically come into the system in a natural way, as it does for any disease, but it should not be our target. This virus is highly immunogenic and a vaccine will indeed benefit the society, but till then individuals need to protect themselves through SMS (S=sanitise, M=mask & S=social distancing), to tackle the spread.
It was also suggested that all localities (RWAs, high rise societies, sectors and colonies) should create their own isolation areas/ rooms with good ventilation, and make available a few beds with SpO2 monitors. Healthcare workers can monitor patients in these ‘community COVID facilities’ and protocols can be developed regarding treatment and transfer to higher care center.
The experts felt that this pandemic has given us the opportunity to reinvent our public health system and going further our leadership should work through- ‘Anticipate, Coordinate and Act’ approach.
Dr Sangita Reddy, President, FICCI, while appreciating the views and contributions of all the experts said, “going forward we need extensive testing including antibody testing for workplaces, containment of the virus at primary level and increased focus on public health”. She also shared that, “this is a time when each one of us- government, private industry as well as every individual- should work towards creating synergies and jointly fight this war against COVID-19’. – MB Bureau