In a recent interview, American epidemiologist Anthony Fauci suggested a short-term complete lockdown in India as a step to contain the spread of COVID-19, and this is the suggestion from many Indian experts and doctors. Though states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka have imposed lockdowns, Kerala which continues to report high numbers of COVID-19 cases everyday, has been reluctant to do so. Though many expert groups in Kerala have called for it, the government has only put in place restrictions and a weekend lockdown.
Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) on Thursday, urged the government to impose a two week lockdown in the state immediately. In a letter to the state's Chief Secretary Dr V P Joy, the association said that two weeks complete lockdown is necessary.
Prior to this, the Kerala Indian Medical Association had also suggested a short term lockdown in Kerala.
"We need a short term lockdown, one or two weeks. Otherwise with this trend of transmission, the healthcare system will collapse. To boost the system, we need a break, and for that a lockdown is necessary," Dr. Muraleedharan M, IMA Kerala North Zone Vice President told TNM.
"We know that it will harm the economy, people will lose livelihoods, but the government should extend support to these people. If this kind of transmission continues, we will soon run out of all the facilities. Only lockdown can solve it," he added.
A total of 37,199 new cases were reported in the state on Friday, the third highest after Maharashtra and Karnataka. This week, the number of cases daily crossed 35,000 on most days. Moreover, the state currently has 3,03,733 (over 3 lakh) active patients. There are reports from Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Thrissur that ICU beds and ventilators at different hospitals are almost full. Private hospitals have already reported that they are running out of space.
"In Kozhikode, more than 60% of ICU beds and ventilators are already in use. The rest will be filled in a few days," Dr Muraleedharan said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Anthony Fauci had said, "You can shut down temporarily to put an end to the cycle of transmission. So one of the things to be considered is to temporarily shut down. Literally, lock down so that you wind up having less spread. No one likes to lock down the country. Well, thatâ€™s a problem when you do it for six months. But if you do it just for a few weeks, you could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak."
The IMA also suggests the same.
"Let's just say that the state can handle even 50,000 new cases per day. But what if the number of severe category patients increases? In many places the ventilators and ICU beds are almost over. How will we handle it? Lockdown can give a time period for the health sector to rejuvenate. Daily cases will be lower and by then many beds will be vacant," said a government doctor from Kozhikode district.
He added that the situation in Kerala can worsen if care is not taken. "If we do not act now, soon we can see those painful sights we see in Delhi," he added.
Even after repeated suggestions, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state might not go for a complete shutdown. However, on Friday, the CM said that the government may have to consider imposing complete lockdown in districts reporting high cases.
"In districts where severe spread of the infection is reported, we may have to think of imposing a complete lockdown," he told reporters.
However, a decision has not yet been taken on which districts it would be imposed, he said.
Some of the government sources said that the state is likely to implement a lockdown after the election results are announced on May 2.