Public health experts, doctors and epidemiologists, in last few days, have given clear indication that it would be difficult to expect life to immediately become normal again after April 14, when the national and state-wide lockdown to fight coronavirus is scheduled to end.
With Telangana among a clutch of Indian States including Maharashtra, AP and Kerala that are reporting large number of Covid-19 positive cases, doctors here opine that it is not advisable and unlikely that all the social distancing measures imposed by authorities will be lifted at one go after April 14.
In a recent interaction, noted public health specialist and alumni from Osmania Medical College (OMC), Dr K Srinath Reddy had also clearly indicated that lockdown can be released only in stages and the exit strategy after April 14 should include social distancing norms, improving testing capabilities, tracing cases, isolating and treating patients.
During the initial part of March, State health authorities had to deal with nearly 25,000 foreign returnees to Hyderabad and other parts of the State. By April 5, almost all of them would have concluded their mandatory 14-day home quarantine. However, the preparedness and containment plans of State health authorities have been challenged by the detection of the Markaz cluster, where over 1,000 persons had participated in the religious meet in New Delhi.
Public health experts have pointed out that there could be pockets of community transmission in several States and it is not yet clear the extent or level to which such transmission is happening. This could possibly influence authorities into opting for only partial lifting of lockdown after April 14.
To address this issue, recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has initiated the process of widening community testing, but it has not reached all States. So far, doctors here have no clear picture on extent of Covid-19 infection among patients admitted to private hospitals with severe respiratory illness. Decisions like lifting the lockdown fully or partially are usually based on hard evidence, which will be available after conducting tests and fully ruling out the possibility of community transmission, doctors said.
Impact of Markaz meet in TS
Senior doctors in Hyderabad point out that the full impact of the Markaz cluster on Telangana will be known only in the next few weeks. Given the steep rise in cases of novel coronavirus due to the Markaz cluster, it is hard to believe that there is no community transmission in States, they said. The only way to ascertain the impact of Markaz cluster is to take up widespread testing across the country.