Commentary - Journal of Public Health Policy and Planning (2020) Volume 4, Issue 4
COVID-19 Pandemic preparedness and response by India: Did lockdown serve its purpose? a Commentary.
COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, had spread rapidly across the globe in the short period of the year. Since it was a new disease, there was no medical intervention available at the outset of the pandemic. Hence, the only mode of prevention was various non-pharmacological interventions, of various levels, at various levels, that could have saved any country from the wrath of this baleful virus. Prevention and preparedness have been the critical factors in the appropriate management at the country level. Indian government acted pro-actively in the implementation of preventive strategies right from the unfolding of the events at the far south end of the country. The government of India started thermal screening at a few of the airports on the 17th of January, which is way before the first case was reported. The passengers who had travelled back into the country ever since were placed under strict surveillance, and evacuees were to be kept in quarantine for the following 14 days. At the same time, early identification of positive cases and contact tracing aptly supported by active surveillance in a few states have played a vital role in containment. As a lesson learned from other countries, the Indian government started measures like social distancing before a significant number of cases emerged in the country. On the 16th of March, govt ordered the closure of all schools in the country. GoI had shown their immaculate understanding of the benefits of non-pharmacological interventions, with the dual purpose of delaying the peak of cases and buying some time for further strengthening of the healthcare system and procurement of PPE; India started the process of lockdown on the 24th of March. At the beginning of April month, GoI had announced significant investments of Rs.15000 crores for ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’. All the above-mentioned measures had contributed to serving the prime purpose of early, emphatic containment of SARS-CoV-2 in a country like India, inhabited by 1.3 billion people. Although the surge of cases in India seems to be high, looking just at the numbers, when we infer the same result in comparison to the no of cases would have been there without the lockdown, no action at policymakers would have overwhelmed the health services severely. Hence, the lockdown in India had served the purpose for which it was imposed, thereby had prevented major humanitarian losses on account of COVID-19.Author(s): Saurabh Rattan, Anmol Gupta, Gopal Ashish Sharma*