22 March 2020
Bhubaneswar: On March 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the residents of India to self impose quarantine and observe a Janata Curfew nationwide as a precautionary measure for further spread of the deadly virus.
Many States including Odisha have taken a step further by announcing lockdown in various places of the State for a few days to combat this pandemic. But these measures are being viewed and interpreted by many as a measure which would break the cycle of transmission and even destroy the virus present on various infected surfaces.
Social media is seen flooded with such messages with a certain 'scientific explanation' rendered saying that the coronavirus life at one place is 12 hours and Janta Curfew is for 14 hours so that places or points of public areas where corona may have survived will not be touched for 14 hrs could break the chain." And this 'logical' explanation is being believed by many without checking the facts.
Firstly, PM Modi, while announcing the curfew, did not mention this particular 'scientific' logic behind it as there is no such one.
Secondly, a study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Laboratory of Virology in the Division of Intramural Research in Hamilton, Montana, US found that infectious viruses could remain in the air for up to three hours. Another study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Laboratory of Virology found that COVID-19 can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
Thirdly, even World Health Organisation (WHO) is yet to come out with a definitive survival time of the COVID-19 virus. According to WHO,"It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment)."
In one of its directives, WHO has categorically stated that the window period between getting infected and the first symptoms showing is two weeks. During this period, the virus can spread asymptomatically. An infected person can pass on the infection to another person for upto 14 days without getting any symptoms himself.
So, it can be concluded that the one day curfew called by our Prime Minister is just to maintain social distancing which is the need of this hour. And social lockdowns called by different States is an effective strategy and vitally important to lessen the proportion of infected persons and flatten the curve which has been constantly on the rise.
In India, the reported cases has sharply increased to 324 from 100 within 6 days. If we look at the transmission patterns of other countries, there has been a surge of positive cases in the third week and we have entered into the third week.
So, the importance of social distancing should not be underscored. In these trying times, these small efforts would leave a big impact. If the number of infected persons will be less, it will reduce the strain on our hospitals and emergency rooms. But if the number increases steeply, the health system may breakdown and many would also suffer due to lack of treatment on time. It is a very big concern and these lockdowns and curfew is to minimise the spread and be useful for the health workers to tackle the situation.
This curfew can also be seen as a trail run for future shut down nationally, if need arises.
But, we should be very clear that these lockdowns and janta curfew are not going to break the chain of transmission. So we have to be careful and take all precautionary measures to tackle it in the coming days.