Components of A Balanced Response to COVID-19

Bharat Dogra

Today it is widely debated in a large part of the world whether harsh measures are necessary for dealing with COVID-19 and whether these are the most appropriate response. Harsh measures include prolonged lockdowns and a heavier reliance on police controls and top-down authoritarian approach. While there has been a heavy dependence on such harsh measures in several countries including India, it is almost certain that a more desirable and appropriate option is to adopt a balanced response to COVID-19.

A balanced approach consists of the following –
1. Various precautions such as hand washing and maintenance of social distance are certainly observed but more on the basis of community mobilization and awareness;
2. People and communities are involved in transparent decision taking which take into consideration all aspects and give people time and advance information to prepare for and participate in public actions, with full understanding of rational steps;
3. Steps to check COVID-19 are decided in balance with steps to maintain people’s access to all life-saving and essential health services and medicines and food security. People’s livelihoods and basic needs are protected. Taking note of difficult times, the commitment to meeting basic needs and protecting livelihoods becomes stronger than before, while all wasteful expenditures and projects are dropped.
4. Public health is strengthened, resources increased significantly and in particular national and community preparations to minimize threats from infectious diseases are strengthened in a continuing campaign mode;
5. Overhype, panic and scare at all levels are avoided at all levels, emphasizing rationality and transparency, taking people and media into confidence.
6. A wider national resolve to face any crisis is created, promoting unity among all people and strictly curbing any discrimination and injustice towards anyone in the response. Democratic rights and civil liberties are maintained.

Such a balanced response is clearly possible and it is certainly a better response compared to harsh, top-heavy, authoritarian, police controlled responses including prolonged lockouts.

Of course, several other scientists in different countries have also been coming forward to emphasize in various ways the need for a balanced approach. However still harsh measures including prolonged, police-enforced lockdowns are being pushed on the plea that these will reduce COVID-19 related mortality. However there is no evidence that the harsh measures will contribute more to reducing COVID-19 mortality compared to a properly implemented balanced approach. On the other hand, harsh measures including prolonged lockdowns can easily increase mortality from other causes due to their adverse impact on treatment of other diseases and injuries, the increase of mental health problems and suicides, the disruption of economy and fiscal budgets, loss of jobs and increase of hunger and malnutrition. The total deaths in world in a year are 57 million and if harsh measures lead to a 5 per cent increase in mortality this will lead to addition of about 2.8 million deaths in world in a year due to non-COVID causes.

Hence there is a clear need to make adequate preparations to replace harsh measures including prolonged lockdowns with a well thought-out, well-implemented balanced approach.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.  

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Apr 26, 2020

Bharat Dogra

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