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Janata curfew is the only way to halt the pandemic in its tracks

The coronavirus advisory talks about social distancing, handwashing and other such precautions as preventive measures. The reason is that coronavirus has an outer lining made of fat and soap breaks down fat.

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Last Updated: Mar 26, 2020, 12.17 AM IST
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Curfew
Till the vaccine for the virus has not been created, quarantine is akin to social vaccine and thus the public should see it more than a regulatory step. It is akin to a mass social vaccination programme, unavoidable and extremely important.
Coronavirus

COVID-19 CASES

Confirmed
5,274
Deaths
149
By Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

The call for janata curfew, first for a day and now three weeks, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a deliberate step to achieve an objective that is central to handling the coronavirus threat – social distancing. Such unprecedented steps are necessary keeping in mind the extraordinary times.

The coronavirus advisory talks about social distancing, handwashing and other such precautions as preventive measures. The reason is that coronavirus has an outer lining made of fat and soap breaks down fat. The lungs are most vulnerable once the virus enters the body, where it attaches itself to a specific receptor, ACE-2, and multiplies till the lung cells self-destruct.

The body responds through our immunity system, which can in such a case be a double-edged sword. The coronavirus can confuse cells of the immunity system, thus sending them into a frenzy. When much of our immune system is confused, the body goes into something called cytokine storm, that is, calling each and every immunity cell to fight the virus.

Doctors track whether the body has initiated the cytokine storm or not, because it is then that the situation becomes extremely critical and death may occur. Thus, it’s important to contain the virus that spreads through two ways: one is a fast pandemic and second a slow pandemic.

It’s the aim of a sensible government to convert every pandemic into a slow one so that health systems can deal with the situation. In other words, the lethality of the virus depends on how we react to them. If we don’t place restrictions on movement of people or their assembly at the right time, then the virus may spread rapidly.

All the virus requires is one tipping point, enough to disrupt the whole system. In South Korea’s case, this tipping point was the patient number 31.

Countries such as Italy, United States, Spain and Britain, which are at the forefront of health care, have been humbled and overwhelmed by this virus. The critical mistake that they did and we can’t afford, is taking the virus lightly and not initiating corrective steps at the right time. Quarantine and restrictions on movement buys us time to fight the virus.

This is the idea behind the PM’s curfew call. Once we go into a lockdown, we will be able to stop the transition and make it a slow pandemic.

A developed country like the US has around 120,000 ventilators and 30,000 more in its strategic stock, but even the US can’t manage a fast pandemic, let alone a developing country like India. That’s the reason the government has responded swiftly by ordering a complete lockdown to manage the spread.

Till the vaccine for the virus has not been created, quarantine is akin to social vaccine and thus the public should see it more than a regulatory step. It is akin to a mass social vaccination programme, unavoidable and extremely important.

(The author is the Union Jal Shakti minister)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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