Time to prepare for community transmission: Top health expert alerts India
Several precautionary measures have to be taken in order to contain the virus because the risk of transmission will certainly increase with the lifting of the lockdown, said Prof. K Srinath Reddy, the President of Public Health Foundation of India.
India must gear up to face the possibility of community spread of COVID-19, a prominent health expert said on Friday, cautioning that easing of the lockdown could trigger the more widespread transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Several precautionary measures have to be taken in order to contain the virus spread because the risk of transmission will certainly increase with the lifting of the lockdown, said Prof. K Srinath Reddy, the President of Public Health Foundation of India.
Reddy, who is also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard, said it should be recognised that community transmission has occurred in virtually every country which experienced this pandemic in a major form and India should also be prepared for it.
He said India has kept the COVID-19 death rates per million population low compared to countries where the pandemic broke out around the same time.
While India might have benefited from multiple factors such as younger age group, more rural population, temperature and the lockdown, Reddy said the country should be prepared for community transmission.
When the lockdown opens there will be much greater mobility of people, there could be more widespread transmission of the virus, so we have to maintain as much as possible physical distancing, continue practices like wearing masks and hand-washing as precautionary measures, he said.
Reddy pointed out that things are going to be difficult in overcrowded areas, especially slum areas.
We will have to try and provide as many facilities as possible, particularly for elderly people and to people with co-morbidities, whether they can be provided temporary shelters elsewhere with good social cares, he said.
"But most important thing is to protect the rural areas (from COVID-19) because two-thirds of India is in rural areas, and the transmission of the virus is low there because mobility is low," Reddy added.
However, in the past few weeks, the movement of migrant workers back to their native villages have gained pace.
On some experts suggesting that there is already community transmission (stage 3) of the virus in the country, President of Public Health Foundation of India, Reddy maintained that it is a matter of definition.
"But most of them are concentrated around the original points of entry of the foreign travellers or the travel routes of their contacts. So, these people who are describing it as stage 2 still are saying this is traceable local transmission, it is not unpredictable community transmission, he told PTI.
Therefore, we are avoiding the term community transmission. It is a matter of definitions and language; we need not debate that really, Reddy, who formerly headed the Department of Cardiology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said.