The day the lockdown is lifted all I want to do is run out and stand under the blue sky and breathe and say, “Yes, we did it.” But how soon can that happen? Yesterday, China lifted the 73-day long lockdown on Wuhan, the city where it all started. However, is the fear gone? The Chinese health authority said on Wednesday that 62 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on the Chinese mainland on Tuesday, including 59 imported cases, taking the total to 1,042. Experts believe that the fear of a second wave is real.

According to a new study based on the Chinese experience, it is not going to be easy to lift the lockdown. Countries will have to monitor closely for new infections and adjust the controls they have in place until there we have a vaccine against COVID-19. That day is at least 15 to 18 months away, according to most experts.

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 “While these control measures appear to have reduced the number of infections to very low levels, without herd immunity against COVID-19, cases could easily resurge as businesses, factory operations, and schools gradually resume and increase social mixing, particularly given the increasing risk of imported cases from overseas as COVID-19 continues to spread globally,” says Hong Kong University’s Prof Joseph T Wu who co-led the research.

Countries will have to monitor closely for new infections and adjust the controls they have in place until there we have a vaccine against COVID-19.

The aforementioned paper, that was published in The Lancet medical journal, is based on modelling of the COVID-19 spread in China. It reveals that the death rate in mainland China was far lower (one percent), than in Hubei province where the deadly infectious viral infection began, which had a death rate of nearly six percent. The death rate also varied according to the economic prosperity of the province, which was related to the healthcare facilities available.

They used local Health Commission data of confirmed COVID-19 cases between mid-January and 29 February in four cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Wenzhou, Shenzhen and ten provinces outside Hubei with the highest numbers of cases for the analysis. It leads them to urge that controls should be relaxed only gradually.

The death rate also varied according to the economic prosperity of the province, which was related to the healthcare facilities available.

It is indeed a depressing thought; not just the number of people who have scummed to the disease but the collateral damages of the lockdown are many. Mental health, job loss, the economy going into a recession and a rise in cases of domestic abuse are just a few issues we are talking about. I am worried about how young kids are going to be able to come out of this? I hope we don’t permanently scar them with this obsession of cleaning their hands and not touching things around. It will be sad if they cannot freely roll on the grass and make sandcastles, or jump in the puddles.

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So, what is the hope for us? With the fractured healthcare system, we have in our country and no drug or vaccine to sheild us, how can India cope with this pandemic? What about the economic damages? How long are we going to be able to socially distance ourselves from friends and family? Even if we ace social distancing, good hand hygiene, behavioural change and better public awareness till we find a vaccine can India bounce back? Having said that, we are quite ingenious and resilient as a species, and while we wait for vaccines and cures, could we find alternative ways to make the lockdown life easier for everyone?

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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