Need to look beyond COVID-19 lockdown

Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, AUG 2 (NPN) | Publish Date: 8/2/2020 1:10:48 PM IST

Ongoing efforts to contain or tackle the rampaging COVID-19 across India through lockdowns or contact tracing will not result in eliminating the virus till a vaccine is found in a year or so and by which time, millions more would be infected.

Lockdown is supposed to facilitate contact tracing to break the transmission chain. However, that too has not caused a break in the transmission chain as evident even in nearby Guwahati City where it has gone into community transmission. 

Speaking to Nagaland Post, Director of CIHSR Dimapur, Dr. Sedevi said contact tracing is very demanding both in terms of manpower and cost. He said Nagaland would need approximately not less than ten thousand health workers to do effective contact tracing. To illustrate, Dr. Sedevi said if a COVID patient went to a building or office, it would not be difficult to do contact tracing of people within those premises. However, if the COVID patient visited market place(s) there would be no way to do contact tracing. Some cases reported recently in Dimapur and Kohima were suspected to be from unknown sources possibly public places.

It was also revealed that most COVID patients in Nagaland were asymptomatic, mostly young people who do not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 but who carry the virus. Though it is impossible to stop the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Sedevi said senior citizens over 60 , children below 10 and those with various ailments such as diabetes, heart problems, kidney etc should be safeguarded since they are most vulnerable to fatality. 

On the low fatality rate of COVID-19 being cited by government authorities to suggest some achievement of sorts, Dr. Sedevi said these do not mean anything but are mere figures. He said even with the case of Nagaland, where there were five accepted COVID-19 deaths, the fatality rate would be somewhere around 0.008 percent. The fatality rate globally was around 3% while in India it was around 2.5%; in Assam it was 0.24% and 4.61% in Gujarat etc.

The clamour among people for setting up BSL facilities in all districts of the state was unsustainable considering the huge cost of construction, equipment, recurring expenditure. In addition, he said BSL facilities require trained scientists for which there were not enough local people. The cost of consumables for a RT-PCR test through BSL was around Rs.3500 each while it was around Rs.1350 each for TrueNat. 

If 100 tests @Rs.3500 were to be done per day at a BSL facility it will cost Rs.3,50,000 and in 30 days it will cost 1,05,00,000. If 100 tests are done through TrueNat @1350, it will cost Rs.1,35,000 per day and in 30 days the cost will be Rs.40,50,000. Dr. Sedevi also said the salaries of scientists at each BSL facility including recurring expenditure are currently borne by the government under COVID-19 pandemic and make the management of these facilities hugely expensive. 

Dr. Sedevi also felt that it was time for the state to seriously ponder over having more COVID-19 care centres to address what is lacking in a quarantine centre.


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