NEW DELHI: The world is entering an age of pandemics, and lockdowns cannot be long-term solutions to contain the spread of diseases, two public health experts told former Congress president Rahul Gandhi in an online conversation on Wednesday.
Speaking about the fallout of the spread of coronavirus pandemic globally, Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, professor of Global Health, T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director, Harvard Global Health, and Johan Giesecke, a Swedish physician and Professor Emeritus at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, underlined the need for aggressive, customised testing strategy, robust health systems and policy to tackle pandemics.
Over the last one month, Gandhi has spoken to several global experts and discussed the socio-economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. This was the third in the series. Earlier, he had spoken to former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan and Nobel Prize winning economist, Professor Abhijit Banerjee.
When asked by Gandhi about the connection between economy and healthcare, Giesecke said, “India will ruin its economy very quickly with a severe lockdown. I think it’s better, skip the lockdown, take care of the old and the frail, and let the other people have the infection. Most people will not even be sick. They will not even notice they have it."
Giesecke said though covid-19 is spreading across the globe like a wildfire, it is a very mild disease and 99% of the people infected will have very little symptoms or no symptoms at all. What we are seeing now is 1% of the epidemic, he warned. Giesecke emphasised on the need to monitor and test.
Jha said covid-19 virus is a new virus and the whole population is susceptible and if left unchecked, the virus could grow exponentially.
As India plans to open up the economy entirely, and lift the lockdown, the times are going to be different, Jha said. “That life over the next 6-12-18 months is going to look very different. And its really is about planning all of that out. So it’s not just communication, but really thinking through, what will public transportation look like? Who will go back to work? What will schools do. There is a lot of work you want to be doing during the lockdown," he said.
South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and East Asian countries have done a good job on covid-19 testing. “But certainly in Western Europe and US, people are still trying to come up with what is the right testing strategy," he said.
According to Jha, about 20% have no symptoms through their entire disease, and another 20-25% people spread the disease even before they have any symptom.
When asked by Jha how lives would be different because of the pandemic, Gandhi said, “Every state will have its own response to the disease. You can already see that some states are doing better than other states because of their nature, their design, their political system. I get the sense that the more decentralised states, the states that spread more power closer to the people will do better."