KT edit: Easing curbs risk a second wave of infections

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Lockdowns seemed cruel at first, but are deemed necessary now

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Published: Tue 21 Apr 2020, 11:12 AM

Last updated: Tue 21 Apr 2020, 1:15 PM

In their bid to wall out the coronavirus, countries have tried lockdowns with varying degrees of success. A successful lockdown depends on how it is enforced and involves the support of the community while the health system prepares for a likely influx of the sick to hospitals and make-shift medical centres. Civil liberties can be put on hold temporarily during such a period when health is paramount. Yet, no one is convinced that sequestering people for long periods is the way forward. But, this is the age of containment, or mitigation, if the virus has spread deeper into society. And lockdowns should be ignored for the larger cause. Lives should be saved as society remains on edge. Mental health, meanwhile, is impacted as people stare at unemployment and a long break from work. Companies are closed, supplies have been hit and travel disruptions have thrown the global economy into survival mode. Lockdowns seemed cruel at first, but are deemed necessary now - the first resort for health authorities when a cluster of cases comes to light. Control the cluster of cases and put a containment plan in place. In the early days of the outbreak, some countries like Italy and Spain delayed lockdowns or failed to seal off communities from danger. They have paid a heavy price with some of the highest casualty rates outside the United States that has become the new epicentre of the pandemic. China, the first country hit by the coronavirus, and also the first to enforce a lockdown in Wuhan and the province of Hubei, has managed to keep the virus out after an early surge. Seventy million people were sealed off from the world for two months, a measure the Beijing government said helped contain the spread of the disease in the country. But such measures are helpful only if social distancing is followed by the general public. Contact tracing other patients is also important in this scenario. Two months ago, other countries in Asia shut themselves  from the rest of the world partially or completely, depending on the number of cases and the ability of their health systems to deal with the rising number of cases. Singapore, South Korea, and Japan did well after an early surge of patients. New Zealand also swiftly moved to limit the spread of the pathogen. They traced and tested more people and came out stronger, while in Europe and North America countries are still coming to grips with these extreme measures that have prevented freedom of movement.
India, meanwhile, enforced the world's largest lockdown of 1.3 billion people last month and has extended it till May 3. The plan is to slow the spread of the virus while the government gets on top of the situation. Like it or not, lockdowns have worked. Europe and the US that imposed these curbs late have been hit the hardest. Timing matters in a such a situation - when to implement and when to ease it. Governments need political will and must put the safety of people first. Countries like Germany, Spain, and Italy believe that now is the time to lift some restrictions. Cases have fallen, so have deaths. This is the new normal and acceptance that the coronavirus remains a constant threat is important as countries take tentative steps to a post-pandemic world. It's a risky process that will take time and cooperation from people who have been affected by Covid-19. Europe must watch out for a second wave and should not let its guard down. Let the healing begin.

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