Places of worship, malls to open from today

Spl. Correspondent NEW DELHI, JUN 7 (NPN) | Publish Date: 6/7/2020 1:09:22 PM IST

 With the number of COVID-19 cases in India still rising despite lockdown enforced since March 25, 2020 and with no vaccine in sight while the economy continues to suffer, the government of India has announced gradual relaxations under three phases. 

In Phase-I religious places and places of worship for public, hotels, restaurants, hospitality services and shopping malls will be opened from June 8 across most parts of the country. Some states have however decided not to open these institutions.

In Phase-II, schools, colleges, educational institutions will be opened after consultations with states the decision will be taken in July. In Phase-III, international flights, metro services, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks will be opened only after assessment of the situation. A visit to the shopping malls, hotels and restaurants and religious places will no longer be the same like before the lockdown imposed on March 25 after the Union Health Ministry issued the SOPs for strict adherence to contain the spread of COVID-19.

All these strategies were adopted in the assumption that if at least 60% of the population developed anti-bodies after infection with COVID-19,it would lead to herd immunity and stop further transmission and ultimately, make the virus disappear within a few months. 

While the government has continually emphasised that since coronavirus won’t go and till a vaccine was developed, people have to learn to live with it; or in other words allow herd immunity to take place. However, many health experts disagree that herd immunity is the only option since it can neither be effective against coronavirus nor a viable option for a country as large as India. They say that despite decades of research to cure HIV, dengue, TB and malaria they are still around but unlike coronavirus known strategies adopted have helped reduce transmissions.

 Health expert have said gradual relaxation of lockdown will only add pressure on the already over stressed health care system. She pointed out that ‘community transmission(stage -3) of coronavirus was already taking place in many cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi etc as proved by rapid increased of COVID-19 everyday. They pointed out that the purpose of lockdown was not to prevent spread of COVID-19 completely but only to slow its spread so as to have a steady pace and identify clusters.

Once Lockdown is lifted, they warned that the spread would rise and the chains of transmission would have to be followed to contain it. They also said the government had mis-projected the lockdown and did not explain adequately the flattening of the curve was different from disease elimination.

Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, PhD in microbiology - coronavirus studies and director of Care Health Diagnostic Centre in Chennai,said that to have herd immunity, the anti-body developed by a body after infection, should be robust and neutralising- to be able to act effectively against the virus. She said presently there was no data to show there is a robust and neutralising immune response against the virus. She pointed out that it still remained to be seen if a person can be re-infected and so waiting for herd immunity was “eugenics-based” since lives were to be sacrificed .

Another expert, Dr.T. Sundararaman former dean of School of Health Studies at Tata Institute of Social sciences warned against the strategy of herd immunity as it is “never used in literature of epidemiology as a strategy.


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