Social Restrictions or Herd Immunity?

Gautam Kumar Das

Worldwide lawmakers are looking for lifting restrictions of lock down as the working class are losing their jobs, shelter and income and they are simply starving for months-due to lock down of all private sectors, shops, building constructions including all unorganized sectors for corona virus outbreaks, though lawmakers of the countries feel a huge risk of community transmission for COVID-19 if they need have to take such steps for relief of the working classes. But before consideration of lifting restrictions, the rulers of the country must have to maintain some criteria as measured by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as, whether the transmission is controlled, the health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact, the outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes, the preventive measures are in place in working places like schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go, the importation risks can be managed, communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the new norms etc - adds Director General of WHO. Along with these criteria, UN Geneva also warns before lifting social and economic restrictions by the countries to go through a few questions like - whether the epidemic is under control, the heath system can cope with a possible resurgence of cases, or whether there is an ability to track and trace new cases and their contacts.

The countries who step forward towards relief of lock down should be implementing a comprehensive set of measures to slow down transmission and save lives. Each government must assess their situations while protecting all their citizens and specially the most vulnerable - states the Director General of World Health Organization. The poor class, by heart and soul, seek the relief from the social restrictions in the developing countries particularly in India. The poor and vulnerable will likely be more impacted by the COVID-19 crisis due to dearth of places where to live and work with their limited savings. Keeping all these factors in mind, particularly for the poor and lower middle class, a few developing country steps forward to consider lifting of social restrictions partially or totally.

New Zealand government lifted lock down on and from 14 May, 2020 where all types of shop, cafeteria, restaurant, cinema, playground, gymnasium including tourist spots are remain open as announced by the Prime Minister of the Country, Jesinda Arden. New Zealand return back to its natural rhythm as usual and the kiwi celebrate such lifting of lock down. Government of France too lifted social restrictions and ordered to open school, but regretfully, more than 70 students of primary section are infected with COVID-19 after a few days. This incident conveys the message of alarming to the other countries affected by corona viruses. The countries still are waiting to consider lifting of social restrictions, they must be guided by protecting human health and about the virus how it behaves and then the strategy will be taken for lifting social restrictions.

Of late, people arises a simple question of whether lifting of social restrictions or waiting for herd immunity - which one is preferable for the citizens of India in order to control dying economy, job, social affairs, day-to-day life and the least is the relief to the citizen, though herd immunity is a time taking phenomenon. Herd community is also called as herd effect, community immunity, population immunity or social immunity, is a benchmark for indirect protection from a infectious disease by which individual can develop immunity by curing from an previous infection or via vaccination, for eg, herd community developed through vaccination contributed to the eternal eradication of small pox in 1977. Herd community is a point mark which is achieved when people in majority grow resistance to an infectious disease i.e. developing antibodies that can immune human beings preventing the contamination of virus.

WHO experts claim indicating to the realities that country like India should not depend on the development of herd immunity to overcome the outbreaks of corona viruses. Out of such confusions related to the frequent discussion on consideration of either lifting of social restrictions or herd immunity, a doctor expressed of ideas to overcome corona virus crisis. The doctor, my friend, said with full confidence that BCG - vaccinated persons are generally protected from the infection of COVID-19. I have to respect my friend’s confidence as he is a reputed doctor but WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for prevention of COVID-19 adding that there is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus. My doctor friend, further, adds that the people in rural belt of India, suffered from cold and cough in their early childhoods, have already developed immunity power that protect them from infection of corona viruses as the Rhinoviruses, pathogens for cold and cough had already developed strong antibodies in their bodies, though no scientific body support such ideas.

Anyway, Asish Jha, a Harvard Professor, told a leading politician in the country that herd immunity is a terrible idea to fight corona viruses in India. According to John Hopkins University, herd immunity means when major population is immune to a contagious disease, it provides indirect protection to those who are not immune. Moreover, the virologists suspect this corona viruses keep confined to the human body for four to five years and become endemic in nature as the pathogen causes epidemic in the planet. Further, community transmission with a flow of devastation in the other countries, took 3 to 4 months. Leading virologist Shahid Jameel said that the country reached community transmission a long time ago because of about 40% of those who tested positive did not have any history of overseas travel or contact to a known case. Deforestation destroys animal habitats bringing them closer to human habitations and the zoonotic viruses jump from animals to humans. Deforestation must be stopped and that happens the disease is less likely to spread to people. Anyway, community-driven local lock downs, insolation and quarantine have to come into play is always a building trust among the citizens of India, followed by the herd immunity is reached with time. Days passed somehow in the period of social restrictions, still a citizen’s appeal, lop off the branch, but don’t cut down the trees.

Jun 1, 2020

 Gautam Kumar Das

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