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Editorial: Blanket lockdown can’t mask ground reality of COVID

The 12-day lockdown imposed in Chennai and its neighbouring districts from June 19 until June 30, which was announced by the state government, has led to a debate among experts and officials on the extent to which it can help flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Editorial: Blanket lockdown can’t mask ground reality of COVID
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Chennai

The government’s warning that it would take a tough stance against violators might only serve to anger the public, who are already reeling from the anxiety of a multi-phased lockdown for the past three months. The possibility of unrest arising from such incidences, like throwing up new hurdles to the government and law enforcement officers, cannot be ignored.

The previous phases of the lockdown prove that the strategy is not prudent or effective in the Chennai context. It might be a low-hanging fruit to attribute the ineffectiveness of the lockdown to the lack of cooperation from the people. But this is certainly not the time for a blame game. What we need is a multi-pronged approach to fight the virus while straddling the adherence to distancing norms. The key to this approach is ensuring the supply of daily essentials to households located in containment zones. Once this is done, the need to venture out could be cut down to a large extent.

Along with measures to heighten surveillance in the four northern districts, the government must proactively monitor other regions in TN in the wake of the massive exodus of residents from Chennai to their native places. A lapse in district-wise data tracking could entail a setback for the whole exercise and the situation could spiral out of the state’s control, nullifying the efforts of the COVID warriors.

The aftershock from the Chennai cluster seems ceaseless as fresh cases in most districts show a connection to the State capital. A contingency plan needs to be accounted for, to handle any crisis in terms of requirement of frontline workers, the adequate number of protective equipment besides beds and ventilators, both in hotspot districts, including Chennai, and the rest of the state. Instead of deriving strategies only in consultation with officials, the government should engage with grassroots personnel serving in the hotspots and containment zones and are in direct contact with the patients and families. This will help garner a first-hand understanding of realities on ground zero and devise an effective and result-oriented strategy.

This is not the hour for the ruling party to pick bones with the Opposition. The State needs a revised budget that provides a significant allocation towards healthcare and emergency infrastructure requirements for COVID-19, while setting aside non-essential, non-topical allocations. As always, dealing with any crisis involves prioritising, and the sooner it’s done, the better.

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