COVID-19, The New Normal – Precaution is the Panacea
Article by *Medical Superintendent, Government Medical College & Hospital,
*Dr Ravi Gupta
So the lock down has been lifted!
This has invited mixed reactions from public with some welcoming it with a
sense of relief, while the others being apprehensiveof the risk of exponential
rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country as a consequence of
During the lock down, we learnt and practiced the habits of preventing the
spread of disease including repeated hand hygiene, social distancing, covering
the nose and mouth with mask at public places, avoiding social gatherings etc.
All these preventive habits in the presence of lock down lead to a slowing
down of the increase in the number of active cases which gave us the time to
develop our SOPs of dealing with the disease as also time for developing our
health infrastructure to cope up with the active patients.
But, with the lifting of the lock down, the real acid test begins now. We cannot
lower our guard and become casual at this stage when we have active number
of cases rising exponentially. Even if we presume that each active case will
infect only one other person, the cases might start doubling very rapidly. Given
the size of population of our country (remember we are nearly 135 crore
people while the US has 35 crore), an exponential rise in cases, if not
prevented, can easily surpass the number of hospital beds and infrastructure
that we have been able to develop during the lockdown phase.
Another important medical fact we must remember is that the virus spreads
not only through the patients who are symptomatic, but asymptomatic
persons having virus in their body are of bigger concern because they appear
to be healthy and tend to skip the preventive precautions. Even the doctors
tend to meet such asymptomatic spreaders in an unprotected manner thinking
them to be clean and safe.
Thus, it is important that each one of us must presume that everybody around
us is carrying the virus irrespective of the manifestation of the symptoms of
the disease and take all the preventive measures of social distancing, masks in
public places, repeated hand hygiene, avoiding social gatherings in a more
stringent and absolute manner. In fact, our level of alertness needs to be much
higher in Unlock 1.0 as our public interaction has gone up many fold as against
the period of lockdown.
There is a lot of debate in society regarding the ideal timing of lockdown and
unlocking. Some people argue that at the stage at which many developed
countries imposed the lockdown, we are lifting the lockdown. Let us review the
sequence of events.
From the time that the first COVID-19 infection case was reported in India on
30 th January and the declaration of the disease as a global pandemic by WHO
on 11 March 2020, the Indian government took a series of steps to tackle this
major public health disaster.
The first curfew named as Janata Curfew was declared by our PM on 22 nd
March 2020 in his national address when India had only 340 cases. The one-
day Janata Curfew was very smartly converted into series of nationwide
curfews/ lockdowns till 31 st May which gave us the time to spruce up the
health infrastructure in our country like creating adequate number of hospital
beds for three categories of patients i.e. mild, moderate and severe patients;
developing SOPs for the diagnosis; prophylaxis and treatment and scaling up
the production of personal protection equipments (PPEs). This proactive move
of the Indian government helped the country to avoid a panic situation as has
been seen in many of the developed countries including the US and Europe.
For instance, in our country, there has been no major hue and cry related to
shortage of PPEs for the health care workers and the hospital beds for the
patients. This was mainly due to the fact that we started the lockdown when
the requirement of this infrastructure was very low owing to low number of
cases, which gave us sufficient time for preparation. During the lockdown
period, the government, through its communication apparatus, was also able
to inform and educate the country’s hugely diverse population about the
practice of preventive habits required to contain the spread of the pandemic.
To bring about a behavioural change in a short span of time in such a diverse
population is not an easy task. As we know that execution of the law in India
can be a difficult task due to variant educational, social, religious and political
factors, but with the advantage of an early lockdown and the proactive role of
our media which helped engrave the preventive measures in the minds of our
population during the lockdown period of just about 2 months, we succeeded
in creating a level of awareness amongst the masses.
Another good point of our country was the fact that in spite of the fact that the
production of essential commodities of daily use including food items and
general goods, came to a standstill during the lockdown period, the country
was able to survive without any major news of black-marketing or a general
panic among the people. To avoid the shortage of such commodities of daily
use, the government again very smartly opened the industrial and other units
dealing with such products in a phased manner so that there was no shortage
of essential commodities.
As on 9 th June 2020, we stand at the mark of total no of cases being 2,67, 749
approximately with active cases being roughly 1,30,000 with almost the same
number of patients having been recovered from the disease. Our death rate of
approximately between 2-3 % and recovery rate of about 50% is a proof to the
fact that the competency of our health administrators/ health care workers
and the quality of our infrastructure is no less than any other country in the
world and we stand fully prepared to face any situation.
But we all should be aware of the fact that the end of the disease is still not
visible. In the absence of any effective drug treatment or vaccine against the
virus, the present Unlock period is critically crucial to prevent the exponential
spread of the disease in the country, so that we never reach a situation where
the symptomatic cases surpass the medial infrastructure of our country. Rather
we need to be so absolute in practicing the preventive measures so that we
can successfully break the chain of spread of virus altogether.
Since the virus cannot survive outside the living body for more than a few days
and survives in a human body for approximately 4 weeks, if we become
absolute by breaking the chain of spread of virus where everybody, every time
and everywhere (the 3 Es)takes all precautions, our country can be free from
the virus in 5-6 weeks. Recently, New Zealand has set the example of being
free from the virus by breaking this chain of transmission in an absolute
Thus let us all take a pledge that from now onwards we will not allow any new
case to emerge due to spread of the virus from active/ asymptomatic cases by
taking all the stringent measures of prevention learnt by us and by
implementing the 3 Es of precaution - Everybody, Every time and Everywhere.