The serological survey conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control under the directorate-general of health services in the Union ministry of health and family welfare between June 27 and July 10 in Delhi has come out a finding that 22.86 per cent of the population there showed signs of antibodies for the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes pandemic Covid-19.
This means that almost one in every four persons in the national capital had contracted the disease and recovered without being noticed.
The survey results assume significance in the backdrop of the successful coronavirus containment strategy worked out by the Delhi and Union governments in the national capital.
With no lockdown, the daily number of infections has come down today to less than half of what it used to be at the same time last month.
The new plan focused on extensive home visits and aggressive testing followed by prescription of home quarantine for the asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients. Such a move ensured that the under-nourished and fragile healthcare infrastructure was put to optimum use and prevented overwhelming of hospitals by patients.
The experiment also resulted in remarkable improvement in the reproduction rate (Rt), or the average number of people infected by a single infectious case, which has now fallen below 1. It may be noticed that there are no complaints of major under-reporting of deaths, too.
It may be noted that Tamil Nadu government has also been able to achieve similar results in Chennai but only after imposing a strict lockdown.
The survey results and the encouraging experience in Delhi should force the government to make a rethinking on using lockdown as a Covid containment strategy. Though the nation is officially into Unlock 2.0, it is a fact that the big metros and parts of several states are at present under lockdown.
Restrictions on movement of people and their activities, of course, slow down the spread of the pandemic but there has to be a cost-benefit analysis of the same in the backdrop of the new pieces of information.
The repeated editions of the lockdown have thrown economic life out of gear and pushed crores of people into poverty and misery. With many of the relief schemes failing to reach the targeted population and the inflation rearing its head, the Union government should advise the states against any more lockdowns.
Instead, it must help the states replicate the Delhi model which can protect both lives and livelihoods.
It could lay focus on reverse quarantine—to keep the most susceptible people under quarantine while allowing others to go to work keeping social distancing norms including ensuring physical distance among people and frequent washing of face and hands etc.
Restrictions on social and religious gatherings, however, should not be eased.
With the arrival of a vaccine being very much on the cards, the government must play its cards well and ensure that we do not suffer too many losses in this short span. It is time we bid goodbye to lockdowns and embrace successful other models to keep the virus at bay.