Extending Lockdown Not The Only Way Out, Say Experts

By Nayak Paudel

Morang, Jun 1: Referring to the increasing threat of COVID-19, the government on Saturday decided to extend the nationwide lockdown, once again, up to June 14. Until May 31, Nepalis have spent 69 days in lockdown.
While the government has been extending lockdown to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further, experts suggest the extension could not be an effective solution to the crisis on the whole.

“There are countries which have had large number of COVID-19 cases and more stringent lockdown than compared with Nepal. However, many such countries started relaxing the lockdown because they realised various other problems rising with lockdown,” said Sameer Mani Dixit, director of research at Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal.
Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, among others, which suffered from large number of COVID-19 cases, have already started easing restrictions implemented during the lockdown.

Similarly, India has also come up with a three-phase unlock plan which will be implemented from June 8.
As per experts, the extension of lockdown has reduced the risk of transmission but increased the risk of other health hazards.
“People suffering from non-communicable diseases have no medicines; those ill have no transport service to reach hospitals; those who reach hospital are not receiving treatment; supply chain of daily goods has been disturbed. Other than reducing the transmission of COVID-19, lockdown has only increased problems in other sectors,” said Dr Madan Prasad Upadhyaya, founding vice-chancellor at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences.

Along with problems increasing in the health sector due to the lockdown, it has also affected sectors such as education, industry, labour and transportation, among others. Since the lockdown, various sectors have not been able to operate smoothly.

“With multiple sectors affected due to the lockdown, which is only implemented for COVID-19 prevention, the government is showing less attention towards other sectors which are facing problem due to lockdown. Other sectors should also be properly addressed,” added Upadhyaya.

In order to relax the lockdown, experts suggest the government to come up with a modality focused on prevention of COVID-19 alongside easing the life of the public who have been facing difficulties to earn their livelihood due to the lockdown.
“The government should expand tests across the country to differentiate places following number of confirmed cases. Lockdown can be loosened at local levels or districts with no cases for now by following preventive measures but intensify lockdown in places with more cases,” said Dixit.

Experts, however, suggest that individuals should always maintain social distance even when lockdown is loosened because the virus is here to stay.

“If we wait for the virus to be fully eradicated, we might have to extend lockdown for a very long time. We must come up with effective plans, policies and guidelines to continue our lives by lifting the lockdown slowly. Government should decide following advice from experts, not over a hunch,” Dixit added.

Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that the lockdown alone cannot end the pandemic.
“So-called lockdowns can help take the heat out of a country’s epidemic, but they cannot end it alone. Countries must now ensure they can detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his media briefing on April 20.

The Rising Nepal

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