After jumping the gun on community spread of Covid-19, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has threatened another lockdown as coronavirus cases breached the 1000 mark on Wednesday to end at 1,038. Whether the lockdown will be across the state or only in areas where clusters are being reported is not clear.
But the threat of a lockdown and marketing Covid fear daily through TV channels is no way to fight the pandemic. Even in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, why shut major areas which are free of clusters? Only 4-5 wards in cluster areas need a shutdown, not the city’s financial hubs.
The CM should remember that there are many who are staring at poverty – auto drivers, daily wage earners and others.
In any case, a lockdown is not a solution to fight the virus. It is only a measure to put health infrastructure and security in place. Once the lockdown is lifted, the virus will be back.
The Opposition feels that it is not Covid fear that is leading the CM to declare a lockdown, but the scams being unearthed daily on the infamous gold smuggling case and the consultancy raj in vogue in the corridors of power.
Instead of dispensing fear, the CM and his team should instil confidence and tell people to live with the virus. There are only two ways to get over the virus scare:
A vaccine or herd immunity.
A vaccine will take time, but herd immunity is probably already happening.
Every pandemic will have to peak before a vaccine or herd immunity kills it.
Leading epidemiologists say that lockdowns are a bad idea; so are measures to lock down school and college-going kids. This is because, the young population has better immunity and can recover from a Covid infection and thus act as a shield for others around them, heralding herd immunity.
The best option is to first isolate patients with co-morbidities and then those in the 50-70 age group. Kerala data has shown that the fatality rate in the young (0-10) and those above 70 hovers around just 2% +
The state’s health department should also look into why Kerala, despite a strong health infrastructure, has a poor recovery rate which is just 42% as against the national average of 63%. This is according to data released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Wednesday. Only Karnataka (36%) came below Kerala while 19 states registered rates above the national average.
The once ‘bad’ and written-off state of New Delhi topped the chart with 85%, followed by Ladakh (84%) and Telangana (78%).
Another interesting aspect is the Delhi sero-survey finding that 23% of 21,387 participants have IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2. This indicates that one out of four Delhi residents may have contracted Covid-19 until June 20, but were silent carriers.
If these numbers are extrapolated, a whopping 40-50 lakh people have already developed temporary immunity; this also reveals a huge difference the pandemic and its detection.
But the new finding has a silver lining – the virus may have already passed through a sizeable number of people, thus providing what could be herd immunity. The sero-survey should be mined further as it offers a wealth of data for epidemiologists and government.
This may also explain the drastic dip in Covid cases these days in Delhi. If a sizeable population did indeed contract the infection and were asymptomatic, it will lead to a drastic dip in the infection fatality rate in Delhi.
These are all in the realm of theories and conjunctures. We have no complete knowledge of the virus which is making a second wave in places like China and Hong Kong.
Given the valuable information flowing from Delhi, Kerala should conduct sero-surveys rather than going for mindless lockdowns and pumping fear in the people.
As the ToI said today: “Regular sero-surveys could give indications of the longevity of antibodies and percentage of infections at which cases begin to plateau or decline. This could then offer definitive hints on the possibility of herd immunity”.
Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Mr Vijayan.