How to lift the lockdown safely and systematically?

How can India lift the current corona virus lock-down in a safe and systematic way without compromising safety? Here're my thoughts.
Step 1: Extend Nationwide lockdown till end of April or at least by 1 week
Because of various incidents we observed towards end of March, it may take till mid of April to show symptoms. Hence it may not be safe to lift the lockdown all over India in one go by April 15th. Though difficult, current lockdown across the country should be extended by a week minimum, two if required (depending on how serious/manageable situation looks by April 13-14).

Flights, trains and buses should remain suspended till end of April till we are 100% sure that there's no more risk.

Step 2: Start identifying green zones.

India has 5650 taluks in 736 districts in 36 states+UTs. As the movement of people has stopped now and India has about 2000+ cases and growing. But not all of India is infected. It is very likely that two third of these taluks will be free of Corona Virus and hence it will be safe to open up those taluks. This will allow people to move within a taluk and most businesses can operate like earlier.

District administration should start identifying at each taluk level if a taluk is safe from Corona Virus (Green Zone) or not (Red Zone). Following tasks are needed:
  • Already known cases- if there're existing +ve cases, people still to complete their quarantine, then again the area is not safe yet.
  • Perform COVID-19 test of 50-100 random people in the taluk to see if there is community spread. If all are negative, then the taluk is probably safe.
  • Health officials and police to visit as many homes as possible to cross check if there're any citizens with symptoms but not reporting to authorities. If people with symptoms are found, then that taluk/area is not safe yet.
With above three assessments, district collector, in consultation with senior doctors and police can decide if an area can be declared safe or not. Following additional factors need to be considered
  • Self sustainability: If the area is heavily dependent on adjacent area for food/milk or any other essential goods, then it may be wise to wait till adjacent area is also declared safe (green zone). Otherwise virus will spread while goods are transported between red and green zones
  • Enforceability: If an area/taluk's borders with an adjacent red zone (still infected area) taluk is large then enforcing lockdown, preventing people from moving between green and red zone will be a challenge. In such cases wait for adjacent red zone to become green.
  • Instruct local politicians to stay away: Politicians often try to influence a decision based on their personal convenience, ego and financial gains. They should be instructed not to interfere in the decisions of DC, medical officer and police. Else this whole exercise will fail.
What to do with cities?
Almost all big cities have one or more corona virus infected cases. Cities are large, densely populated and enforcing partial lock-down will be a challenge. People will slip from red zone to green to gain freedom. Also if a specific apartment or sub area is declared red zone this may lead to discrimination or people fighting why only they are restricted while those in adjacent building are free. So because of all these challenges, it is recommended to keep big cities locked down for some more time, till infected/quarantined people's count becomes very little and easy to manage.

Another strategy could be to move all quarantined people to one part of the city and open up rest of the city. But this will be logistics challenge- people may not wish to stay away from family, people of locality identified for such a move would object and so on.

Precautions to take:
  • Green zones should be checked once a while and if any signs of virus is found, a green zone should be declared red again.
  • Movement of people (emergency personnel, essential supplies, police force etc) between a green and red zone should be near zero. Else the effort will fail. If a zone is not self sufficient and is dependent on adjacent red zone it is best to keep it in red till it adjacent zone is also not declared green
  • People should be educated so that they can identify if a person from red zone appears in their area.
Once safe areas (green zones) are identified, lock-down can be lifted in those areas while ensuring that lock-down between a green and red zone remains intact. This way at least a good part of India can try to get back to normal life and administration can focus on red areas to ensure they are cured and can be declared safe asap. More importantly farmers in villages can get to their farms and continue producing food, which is essential for everyone.

This way we can get India back on its wheels while taking necessary precautions to contain the virus.

Do you agree? You have a better plan in mind? Please share

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