‘Local containment is the need of the hour’

Another total lockdown will be of little effect now, says former DPH at webinar

A total lockdown will be of little effect now and local containment in areas where clusters have emerged may be the apt public health measure, according to K. Kolandaswamy, former Director of Public Health (DPH) and Preventive Medicine.

Speaking on electioneering and voter safety in view of the rise in fresh COVID-19 cases and the upcoming Assembly election during a webinar on Saturday, he pointed out that last year’s lockdown was to prepare the healthcare system to face the pandemic.

“The lockdown caused a lot of economic hardship. It was mainly to build the capacity of our hospitals and COVID-19 Care Centres. It gave us the breathing time for preparedness measures,” he said.

With cases rising again, he said another lockdown would have no great impact and would only extend the pandemic.

“Already, nearly 50% of the population will be infected, and we are also vaccinating people. Normalcy has been restored. A lockdown will only affect services. Instead, we can have local containment measures with restrictions in movement in places where clusters of cases have surfaced. We can also restrict the movement of senior citizens and those with co-morbidities,” he said.

Dr. Kolandaswamy called for setting up polling booths in well-ventilated spaces instead of cramped rooms. “Closed and contained spaces are a risk factor for disease transmission. So it is important to have proper ventilation. Hand wash facilities should be made available at polling centres. Masks should be mandatory,” he said. Election-related gatherings alone cannot be termed as the cause for a surge in cases, he said, adding, “Elections are one of the activities now. All regular activities have resumed.”

The former DPH said the present rise in cases cannot be called a second wave. “We will not have the same magnitude of cases as we had in the first wave. Clusters are surfacing in uninfected areas and uninfected groups. This is how it will move from a pandemic to endemic,” he said.

He raised the need to include more categories for the COVID-19 vaccination drive. Those with high public interaction such as media, bus crew, service providers such as mechanics and electricians, and vendors should be included. While a civic sanitary worker is considered a frontline worker, a sanitary worker in an apartment too should be considered the same, he said. Jaya Shreedhar, Internews pandemic adviser, participated.

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