Context:As we look to the possible end of the 21-day national lockdown,India needs to prepare itself for future course of action in the fight against COVID-19.
In which direction India should be heading after lockdown?
1.Priority to Self reliance
- India needs to chart its own strategy, whether it is in planning a staged release from the lockdown or in developing domestic capacity for medical equipment.
- Cooperation with the rest of the world is also needed:
- There will be a need for scientific and economic cooperation with the rest of the world, but self-reliance at the end should be the aim.
2.Proactive role of volunteers and community-based organisations
- Their involvement can greatly enhance case detection, isolation, counselling, severity-based care and social support.
- Better practices such as house-to-house surveillance being implemented in Andhra Pradesh involves accredited village and block level volunteers partnering front line health workers to identify symptomatic persons for later visits by medical teams, can be utilised.
3.Restricting urban to rural movement to essential goods and essential needs
- This can be done at least for a few weeks so that the risks of spreading the diseases in future can be avoided to some extent.
- Essential economic activity can be resumed in stages.
4.Special attention towards vulnerable sections
- The health, nutrition and financial security of the poor must be ensured.
- Elderly persons too should observe social distancing and limit visits outside home for this period. Essential economic activity can be resumed in stages.
5.Greater level of testing after the lockdown
- This can be done to detect both asymptomatic and symptomatic persons who have been infected, through random population sampling in different parts of the country.
- Hotspots should be identified, based on numbers of self-referred symptomatic cases, persons identified on home visits and population survey results.
- These hotspots should be ring fenced, with intense search for contacts and active spreaders, with further localised lockdown as needed.
6.Focussing on better health care services
- We need to make sure that our health-care system provides timely and competent care to all who need it.
- Gearing up for exigencies:India needs to gear up the capacity of our health system for effective public health and health-care responses across the country within the next few weeks if there is a surge in cases.
- Primary health-care facilities, district hospitals, public and private tertiary care institutions have to gear up with equipment and augment human resources drawn both from trainees and retirees.
- For health care providers:
- Considering the higher risk to older health-care providers, the first line of care should be formed by younger staff members who will have milder effects even if infected.
- The older staff members can provide supervisory support.
- Temporary hospitals for treatment and isolation facilities for persons on quarantine needs to be created.
- Role of the healthcare industry:Industry needs to produce essential medical equipment and drugs to meet our needs.