Bengaluru, April 09, 2020: The committee of experts of the Karnataka government, which submitted its report on Wednesday, has said it believes there is "no medical reason" to extend the lockdown beyond 21 days. It has also pointed out that with only 6% of the country’s huge population actually employed in the organised sector, India simply cannot sustain a prolonged lockdown to prevent massive societal and economic disruption.
"Declaring lockdown of a specific industry for a long period of time will result in layoffs compounding the economic problems. We just need to send a message to everyone that life is not going to be normal for at least six months," says the report, a copy of which was available on Thursday.
Some of the recommendations were highlighted by the Chief Minister’s office on Thursday and the report suggests a phased exit at two weekly intervals.
"Of course, we are likely to see rapidly increasing numbers of the next few days, followed by a plateau and a rapid decline to the effect of the lockdown. India needs to follow up with some smart and unconventional strategies as soon as the lockdown gets lifted," it says.
Interestingly, a day after this panel of medical experts gave its report, the state’s own Cabinet ministers felt there was need to extend the lockdown by at least two weeks to effectively contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The experts’ committee is headed by Bengaluru’s prominent cardiologist Dr Devi Shetty and comprises other senior doctors -- Dr CN Manjunath, head of the government-run Jayadeva Institute, Dr MK Sudarshan, a public health expert, Dr C Nagaraj, who heads the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases which is the nodal government COVID-19 hospital, and Dr V Ravi of the Nimhans’ Neurovirology department.
While recommending that the construction sector and industries in the organised sector -- like garment factories, manufacturing units and SMEs -- must be allowed to reopen with 50% staff for the first week post-lockdown and the other 50% working the second week post-lockdown, the report the government to curb movement in public places. Malls, gyms, bars, religious institutions and cinemas, in fact any place where a large number of people use a common toilet, should continue to be off-limits till April 30. It has sought a ban on chewing gum and paan as well in order to prevent spitting.
The report says that doctors above 60 years of age must not be involved in frontline care of patients, while private medical colleges and hospitals could be roped in to add to the existing infrastructure in case of need.
It has also asked for restoration of public transport like buses with enough distancing between passengers, but no trains or flights till April 30, as inter-district, inter-city and inter-state movements must be restricted. Non air-conditioned buses and auto-rickshaws may be allowed too.
The committee will review the situation on April 22 to come out with an exit plan for the two weeks after April 30.
Warning on masks
The committee warns the public against using disposable masks and instead advises them to use cloth-based ones that can be washed and re-used.
“There is enough scientific evidence to make wearing cloth masks in public places mandatory. Public should be warned against using disposable surgical masks, thus depriving medical personnel of protective gear. Surgical masks disposed into garbage is not biodegradable, they can spread the virus if garbage pickers start recycling it," it states.