Stopping the surge: On unlock and the next COVID-19 wave

Govts should unlock using good evidence on how to avert another COVID-19 wave

With the unprecedented knowledge base created in just over a year on COVID-19, governments have the resources to plan finely tuned reopening strategies. The current consensus on preventing spread, as WHO points out, is to avoid the three Cs — crowded places, close-contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces. The intersection of these is the most dangerous, and relaxations given by some States fall within this red zone: dine-in restaurants, cultural performances, shops, and social events in enclosed spaces. A significant number of people are unwilling to wear masks and adhere to distancing, making it difficult to stop transmission, including on trains and buses. Neither have State governments moved to provide certified masks to the public liberally, to be able to insist that they be worn. The insurance and banking sectors have made slow progress in enabling employees to work from home using real time platforms that can reduce crowding in offices. It is clear that until vaccines are freely available and cover every individual, the economy can reopen with a modicum of safety only with strong leadership. A record vaccination rate on a given day may encourage more people to come forward to be immunised, but there are not enough doses available, and data show rural areas are doing badly compared to cities even for the first dose. The Centre is cautious this time, warning of a third wave, but the imperative is to open windows of activity gradually without dropping the ball on safety.

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