Daily Counts of COVID-19 are not useful, something else is
Everybody is tracking daily counts and as the numbers surge, there is panic around. Yesterday, we carried out a simple poll and we found that nearly 30% feel that the lockdown won’t end on 3rd May. Looking at the surge of numbers daily, you can’t blame them. The Government thinking on this matter is build solid containment strategies that will enable rest of the people to move around with fear. This is logical but how many of us are confident about this? The reason is we feel unempowered.
Look at how many of us visit covid19India and mohfw web-site. The Ministry web-site had 2.4 lakh visits in February. It went upto 44 million in March. One can imagine this has risen even more in April.
But the problem with tracking daily numbers is, we have little information on where they are coming from, atleast at the outset. Covid19india.org has a patient database which gives you some sense but I doubt anyone has the patience to go through those details. Media provides maps and specific locations too which does nothing beyond panic because it is unlikely we are keeping methodical track of the cases. To put it all simply, most of us have little use for the daily numbers. I would in fact recommend Governments and the private sector to stop publishing these meaningless numbers.
Micro-level data to Empower Citizens
What I think would be very meaningful is high level of local data (in a map and text format) that would provide useful information to the average citizen. The Government is talking about AarogyaSetu as a solution to this but it is bound to struggle given privacy concerns and the voluntary nature of using the app. However, here a few data points that would really be helpful at the State level
1. Geo tag every single infection in the country and publish them at State level. When Lockdown ends, every user knows places to avoid and places they can move freely (with masks etc)
2. Publish a redflag list every day which shows list of new infections that are more than 1km away from the nearest infection case.
3. Publish a list of high spread zones. Areas that are more likely to be the cause of infections outside the 1km zone
Mass communicate these lists using various platforms.
What all of this will do is prepare the Citizen better after Lockdown. I will for example know places i can visit freely and places I must avoid. It also tells me how to behave locally and what I should do to avoid spreading the disease myself. While there will be a few careless people as usual, a better informed public will go a long way than an ill-informed one. Add the Government containment strategy on top of this and we will be much confident and safer after May 3rd.