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COVID19

Is lockdown an effective measure for combating COVID19 pandemic?

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lockdown effective for combating COVID19

Aina Bhat

Naveed Hamid

Infectious diseases have periodically posed a threat to human societies. A pandemic is a worst-case scenario in the world of infectious diseases. The latest in the sequence of pandemics was caused by the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses are single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses with pleomorphic genomes. The “novel” coronavirus is a modern strain that has never been seen in humans. The name comes from the crown-like appearance created by the club-shaped projections that adorn the viral envelope. The first pandemic of the twenty-first century was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002, followed by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (SARS-CoV). The planet is now facing another pandemic known as Coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. On December 8, 2019, the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Since there are no specific treatments or vaccines, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) at the individual and collective levels are the only acts capable of containing the epidemic and reducing its effects on population health.

In December 2019, cases of a disease similar to pneumonia started to appear in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The cases that emerged were caused by a previously unknown form of coronavirus. Since it emerged in 2019, this strain of the virus was dubbed Coronavirus 2019, or COVID-19. The Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, is believed to be the source of this virus. It was later discovered that the virus, which is transmitted from animal to human, can also be transmitted from human to human.

Although the molecular mechanism of the COVID-19 transmission pathway from human to human is still unknown, the general theory of respiratory disease transmission is similar. Droplet spreading spreads respiratory diseases. In this sort of spread, a sick person exposes people around him to the microbe by coughing or sneezing. In other words, environmental conditions play a significant role in the spread of this virus.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading at a rapid pace with cases more than 16 crore worldwide and 2.33 crores in India. COVID19 restrictions are in place in almost every aspect of life. Following hygiene laws is the most basic step to reduce the spread of coronavirus or to avoid infection. The most critical of these is hand washing. As a result, the transmission of this virus is slower in communities where people wash their hands and follow general hygiene laws. Official organisations have a high degree of involvement in the “stay at home” call. Scientists warn that the COVID-19 virus will easily spread to any age group.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was registered by approximately 220 countries. Countries have implemented stringent measures such as school vacation, working from home, quarantine for areas with a large number of outbreaks, and, most notably, lockdown to slow the COVID 19 outbreak. The days of lockdown vary by country. Countries determined when the lockout began and ended based on the COVID-19 impact on their people. Since COVID-19 continues to have a strong impact on the public, several countries have prolonged the lockdown for several days. Countries are affected by the lockdown in both environmental and economic terms (Chakraborty and Maity, 2020). The lockdown has laid the groundwork for environmental regeneration, especially with the closure of factories and the reduction of both private and public transportation vehicles used. With the lockdown implemented during the pandemic process, COVID-19 improved air quality in many parts of the world. Economic operations have ceased to reduce carbon emissions as a result of the lockdown.

Lockdown as a most impactful initiative for spreading of Covid-19

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in December 2019, the lockdown has been described as the only successful global measure to halt the spread of this pandemic in the population. India enforced a full shutdown across the country as lockdown I on March 25, 2020, and then extended it by providing timely partial relaxations in the form of lockdown II, III, and IV.

COVID-19 cases and deaths are growing on a regular basis due to its ability to spread by sneezing, cough droplets, and touching. Since this virus enters the body via the mouth, nose, and eyes, it has resulted in a worldwide lockdown, quarantine, and certain restrictions. To prevent this pandemic, governments imposed a slew of social restrictions. The limitation of lockdown was at the forefront of these steps. According to statistics, the lockdown plays an important role in stopping COVID-19.

Lockdown Impact

Upon analysing numerous secondary data-based studies, the findings revealed that the lockdown was successful in lowering incidence and mortality rates in the majority of countries. As a result, it was used as a tactic to halt the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. The efficacy of lockdown increased gradually in scenarios that took into account time lags between intervention initiation and the onset of the effect, as predicted by the dynamics of the infection itself. Since the COVID-19 epidemic has an exponential growth pattern, the success of reducing incidence is influenced by the time of the epidemic when social distancing measures are put in place.

As per various studies, strict social distancing measures represent an effective way to slow the progression of COVID-19 epidemics. However, these measures have a great economic, psychological and social impact.

  1. Psychological effect

It has been shown that lockdown is linked to human psychology. Stress (8.0 percent) and depression (16.0–28.0 percent) were identified as psychological reactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. These psychological symptoms were observed in only a few of the affected countries and do not represent the experiences of people living in other parts of the world. As a result, it is apparent that having reported cases and mortality rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has an effect on mental health issues.

  1. Environmental effects

Researches have been conducted to investigate the environmental impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. It has been observed that the world has begun to renew itself as a result of all types of manufacturing, vehicle movement, and people’s social activities remaining at a low level for a long time. Lockdown restrictions, in particular, have been shown to improve air and water quality.

  1. Economic effects

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has had a major economic effect in India. India’s growth rate in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 fell to 3.1 percent (Ministry of Statistics). According to the Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, this decline is primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the Indian economy. Notably, India had been experiencing a pre-pandemic slowdown, and the pandemic has “magnified pre-existing threats to India’s economic outlook,” according to the World Bank.

The World Bank and rating agencies initially revised India’s growth for FY2021 to the lowest levels seen in three decades, dating back to the 1990s when India’s economy was liberalised. CRISIL declared on May 26 that this could be India’s worst recession since independence. According to State Bank of India research, the GDP contracted by more than 40% in Q1. The Ministry of Statistics published GDP figures for Q1 (April to June) FY21 on September 1, 2020, showing a contraction of 24% compared to the same timeframe the previous year. Economic activity dropped from 82.9 on 22 March to 44.7 on 26 April, according to the Nomura India Business Resumption Index.

Conclusion

The Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has had a global effect, with significant economic implications. One of the repercussions has been the implementation of unprecedented lockdown and restriction policies in a number of countries. Travel restrictions and the need to stay in our residential homes to reduce the spread of the virus are expected to significantly alter anthropogenic pollutant emissions, both in terms of released mass and time variations. This has been observed since the start of the lockdown, specifically through the study of data from air quality monitoring networks and satellites.

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COVID19

Health Shocks versus Health Stimulants in COVID19

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Health Shocks versus Stimulants

Dr Binish Qadri
The overpopulated and underdeveloped economies are characterised by the vicious circle of poverty having very low per capita income. It has been argued in the Critical Minimum Thesis of Harvey Leibenstein that underdeveloped economies are underdeveloped because there is a bad interface between the two forces of development viz shocks and stimulants. Since shocks are more intense in underdeveloped economies than stimulants, these economies are caught under a vicious circle of poverty. We must realize the fact that our health shocks are more than our health stimulants and, therefore, we are not in a position to come out of COVID19. What is required in this pandemic is that the economy should receive a stimulus to growth that is more necessary than a certain critical minimum size. To reduce the magnitude of health shocks and increase the magnitude of health stimulants all those forces which reduce the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. need to be suppressed and all those forces which increase the level of output, income, employment and investment etc. are to be boosted.

Shocks dampen the forces of development while stimulants boost the forces of development. Similarly, health shocks dampen the forces of health development parameters while health stimulants boost the forces of health development parameters. Health stimulants have the capacity to raise health levels in general and per capita income levels in particular above the equilibrium level. In backward and undeveloped countries as the magnitude of stimulants is quite small we can’t imagine long-run economic development. This further discourages the magnitude of health stimulants. Therefore, the efforts to evade economic backwardness (health in particular), impulsive or compulsory, are below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent growth that is all-inclusive. Even in our health departments, the efforts to do away with health disparities and COVID19 are very below the critical minimum effort needed for persistent holistic sustained health development.

According to Leibenstein, the attitudes and motivation of the people and the incentives given to them have a great bearing on the generation of stimulants. Nonetheless, the motivation and incentives have no worth without the key factors of economic development. The main factors that promote economic development are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the discoverers, the innovators, those who have the capacity to accumulate and utilize wealth, and those who can accumulate skills and spread knowledge. COVID19 has depressed the masses to a great extent and reduced the motivation of the people to improve their immunity. Health authorities must give enough incentives to combat the detrimental impact of this virus, increase immunity, and generate health stimulants. No doubt the activities of health authorities and Frontline Health Workers are unending, but they must lay great thrust upon those activities which are in a position to generate health stimulants and promote economic development. COVID19 demands continuous efforts of various social, economic, and health agencies necessary for economic development. We need efficient human capital to produce other efficient human capital (particularly nurses, teachers, doctors, engineers). That is to say that we need a critical minimum amount of investment in human capital to produce more efficient human capital out of human resources. But, it necessitates an extraordinary type of human response towards motivations, attitudes, and incentives, which are created by a sound social and economic environment.

The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Kashmir. You can reach her at [email protected]

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COVID19

Third Wave: Precautions, not panic, please

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Precautions not panic please

Jammu and Kashmir is in the middle of what medical experts are calling the ‘third wave’ of Covid19. There has been a sharp increase in the number of Covid19 positive cases in the past one month or so. From 136 positive cases reported on December 19, 2021 to 5992 positive cases reported on January 20, 2022, the jump in the tally has been both significant and concerning. This has led to the imposition of a number of curbs across the Union Territory, including the closure of educational institutions for offline classes as well as the postponement of several examinations by universities.

While this increase in the number of positive cases has been concerning for both people and the authorities, the lethality vis-à-vis hospitalisations and deaths has been relatively very low when compared with the figures of deaths and hospitalisations during the second Covid19 wave when the Delta variant of the virus was at its peak.

Today, according to official versions, the bed occupancy is “very low” which is indicative of low levels of the lethality of the new variant called ‘Omicron’ despite the fact that scientists across the world have opined that its transmissibility is extremely high. Though there is no official data to support that the ongoing rise in Covid19 infections in Jammu and Kashmir is a result of the spread of the Omicron variant, nonetheless the rising levels of transmissibility are indicative of it. Truly, it is not possible for the government to go for mass testing for Omicron due to logistic requirements for genome sequencing, the levels of RTPCR testing for Covid19 have gone up significantly in the past few days, reaching as many as 80,000 tests/day on January 19.

Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested.

At the public level too, the response to the fresh outbreak has been sagacious enough. Contrary to social stigma and ostracisation seen during the first and second wave of Covid19, when deaths and panic were at their peak, the situation today is far better. People appear to be handling the fresh outbreak with a fair degree of seriousness and maintaining the social cohesion that was seen in tatters in the first and second wave. That is a lesson that seems to have been learned the hard way at the public level, though it is important for the people to continue to mask up, maintain physical distancing and other Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) to halt the fresh outbreak in its tracks.

There is no clear scientific data to suggest that the Omicron variant is going to behave ‘mildly’ in the near future as it is behaving today. That should serve as an alarming sign for both the people as well as medical experts and health professionals dealing with Covid19. There must be no lowering of guard whatsoever. The hospitals have to be fully equipped with Oxygen supply and ICU beds to keep them ready for any eventuality. Dedicated Covid19 hospitals have to be put in a ‘ready mode’ for next few months till the ongoing wave—believed to go in a couple of months from now—ebbs. Any complacency on part of people or authorities can have potentially dangerous consequences. The testing has to be ramped up. Furthermore, there has to be a close eye on the economic scenario and people’s daily livelihoods to ensure that the same are not jeopardised in any manner. Any decision on imposing lockdown has to be based on the levels of hospitalisations as against the number of daily cases, as some medical experts in J&K have already suggested. A reckless lockdown has the potential to hit the livelihoods of people which they are yet to revive after taking a massive hit during the first and second wave of Covid19. Additionally, it is important to explore ways and means to see to it that the education sector doesn’t get impacted any further. It has already taken a heavy toll on children’s education and their socialising in schools and colleges. All decisions have to be weighed in with ground realities and medical advice for a fine and balanced approach. Both people and government need to work together to realise these objectives.

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COVID19

Covid19 reopening: A close watch needed

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Covid19 reopening

Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, continues to battle the Covid19 pandemic. Though the number of daily positive cases is not as alarming as it would be a few months earlier, yet there are some indications of a slow rise in positive cases in the past few weeks. This situation clearly calls for very careful handling of the situation, especially in view of the apprehensions of a possible third wave hitting the country in the months of October and November.

In a welcome move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently ordered phased reopening of educational institutions, including colleges and higher-level schools. It was a long-pending demand of all stakeholders, in the larger interest of the student community, to allow children to return to their on-campus classes after a long hiatus. The move coincided with the phased reopening of businesses in the Union Territory to infuse a fresh lease of life into the otherwise ‘dismal’ economy that was badly hit in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.

The post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

There is no denying the fact that the post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

It was therefore imperative upon the administration to take care of the interests of this section of the society. It is equally a fact that the resumption of academic activities across Jammu and Kashmir was the need of the hour to enable students to interact with their teachers and peers, re-socialise on the campuses and heave a sigh of relief. To this extent, the administration took certain welcome decisions. However, the fact that the pandemic is still not over can’t be overlooked in such a scenario. It is therefore important to watch the situation very closely for its better management and minimal disruptions in case of any eventuality like the third Covid19 wave.

The onus to ensure a close watch on the situation certainly lies on the officials concerned, especially the Deputy Commissioners of various districts. In the past two months, the number of daily positive cases largely ranges from 100 to 200. This is not alarming if a comparison of these figures is made with the figures of the previous few months. But the level of unpredictability is too high to be taken casually. On September 22, the UT recorded the highest single-day tally of 204 Covid positive cases—up from 145 cases recorded a day earlier. This is where the situation demands utmost caution. At the official level, it is important to keep a track of these figures to decide on further reopening. If the rate of positivity surges, it would be in the fitness of things to reconsider the further process of reopening and reimpose the curbs, wherever necessary. Alongside, it is imperative to ensure that mass gatherings are disallowed and people adhere to the Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) in letter and spirit. The administration also requires to watch the Covid scenario in other states of the country and handle the inflow of tourists and visitors to the UT accordingly in strict adherence to the SOPs. The situation just cannot be allowed to go out of control any longer. Sustained and focused attention on the situation can go a long way in facilitating its better management at all levels.

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