Extending the red light area closure could delay the peak of the epidemic in Pune by at least 37 days, a new study by Yale University and Harvard Medical School researchers has said.
In a pre-print study in arXiv — an open access repository of electronic preprints approved for posting after moderation but not full peer review — on “The effect of extended closure of red light areas on Covid-19 transmission in India”, Abhishek Pandey from the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, Yale University, and others have demonstrated a beneficial impact of extended closure of RLAs in India compared with their re-opening on Covid-19 cases, hospitalisation and mortality.
Extending the red light area closure could delay the peak of the epidemic in Pune by at least 37 days. It will also substantially slow down the epidemic spread in the city, Pandey told The Indian Express via email.
“In our paper, we show that continued closure of the red light area in Pune would avert more than 95 per cent of total cases by the time the epidemic is predicted to peak. If the red light area in Pune re-opens, we estimate that 45 per cent of red light area residents could be infected by the time the epidemic peaks,” he added.
Researchers have developed a model of Covid-19 transmission in RLAs, evaluating the impact of extended RLA closure compared with RLA reopening on cases, hospitalisations and mortality rates within the RLAs of five major Indian cities, within the cities, and across India.
“Even if the red light area is allowed to continue operating, sex workers should be provided with financial assistance and resources to enable them to make a choice about switching to a lower risk occupation, at least till an effective preventive measure is available,” said Pratha Sah, a co-author and a post doctoral associate at Center for Infectious Disease Modeling & Analysis, Yale University.
When contacted, Tejasvi Sevekar, in charge of Saheli — a sex workers’ collective at Budhwar Peth — strongly objected to the study findings and said that there were many problematic assumptions in the research and stereotypes about the work and lives of sex workers, which will further contribute to the stigma and criminalistion of sex workers in times of the pandemic when there is widespread fear and misinformation. “The paper does not mention the network/ sex worker organisations who participated in this survey or how they obtained data, but states that it has used data from Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur to prepare a model. Once again like we saw during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, sex workers have been made as the vectors of disease and therefore the need to stop sex work. They have not attempted to find out how sex workers are assisting in keeping their communities safe during the epidemic,” Sevekari said, strongly opposing the research study.
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