Time for India to Change Lockdown Strategy

By Subhash Chandra, CEO, CrowdWisdom360

In the chart above and simulations carried out by others it is clear that lockdown has reduced both the intensity and speed of infection growth. So when many States and the Centre itself announced a lockdown, it was indeed the right strategy.

When one looks at just new cases added, we have added a massive 10000 new cases in the last one week. This is when the lockdown was at its peak. It is unclear if these numbers will improve or will get worse but the lockdown is also causing economic distress which may cause risky behaviour. Which means that we will need to change tack going forward (get even better). The current emphasis is to tighten lockdown, tighten containment and isolation. But that may not solve the problem fully.

Let me illustrate the point with Mumbai. At the top level, things look worrisome. But when one looks at the data in detail, there is no consistency. I mean, there is no obvious reason why one slum is having a lot of infections and not another. One affluent community is doing well on infections but the other isn’t. There is too much variance in data that cannot be explained by a simple model. While we await for a full model that explains the spread better, let me point out to some (anecdotal) factors that appear to be explaining the spread better- Economic Factors (Poverty or Greed), Cultural Factors (Law abiding nature), Community Level Engagement and Quality of Local Enforcement (Civil and Police). This also explains the State level and City level variances. Vizag had 21 cases and Nagpur 100 while Indore had 945 cases, all with comparable levels of population. If the variance is purely driven by luck, in any case there isn’t much more we can do but wait.

Unlike western countries, India is heading into the monsoon period some 35 days from now with the whole country covered over the next 2 months. It is unclear how that will play out with COVID. Add the economic stress and it is best India tries out newer strategies soon rather than later. 

What are the new Strategies? 

– 100% Shutdown strategy that Odisha has used often

– 100x Increase in testing (Look at Andhra, massive testing per million pop)

– Scale up community Volunteers usage and engagement 10X fold (Like Bangalore)

– Increase Reward and Penalties for Social Distancing, Containment and Isolation (Odisha had done this with NRIs)

There could be more such ideas (Please add in comments below) but it is clear that continuing with current process as it is will never take us to a place where we are satisfied and can get on with normal life.