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‘Community participation will be the way ahead’: Lockdown can’t be indefinite strategy, says AIIMS Director

AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria observed that the high mortality rate in Gujarat could be because of the issues of late reporting of symptoms due to the stigma attached to the disease.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad | Published: May 9, 2020 11:48:26 pm
Coronavirus cases, AIIMS Director, Randeep Guleria, India lockdown, Community participation, Indian express news Guleria praised the infrastructure and protocols put by the Gujarat government and emphasised on interaction between all healthcare workers, nursing staff, and others in the frontline.

AIIMS Director and renowned pulmonologist Dr Randeep Guleria, who reached Ahmedabad to take stock of the COVID-19 situation, said that lockdown cannot be an indefinite strategy and community participation will be the way ahead.

He observed that the high mortality rate in Gujarat could be because of the issues of late reporting of symptoms due to the stigma attached to the disease.

Guleria, who arrived Friday night, along with Dr Manish Soneja, Additional Professor, Department of Medicine, AIIMS and an infectious disease specialist, visited the 1200-bed Covid Hospital at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on Saturday followed by a meeting with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. Based on the team’s assessment, Dr Guleria said that community participation is very necessary and if COVID-19 has to be defeated, “we have to do it at a community level rather than at the hospital level.”

Dr Guleria added that upon his discussion with the state machinery, a few issues emerged that could explain the state’s high mortality rate. One, he said, was the continued stigma attached to the disease that make several mildly symptomatic patients hesitant of approaching health facilities or to get themselves tested. “A person can be mildly symptomatic but critically low in oxygen levels in the blood. As a result, pressure on organs increases and chances of death increases. If given oxygen, their lives can be saved,” he added.

Another issue that was raised in the discussion between the AIIMS team and Gujarat team was that those who are elderly and have existing comorbidities such as diabetes or heart issues or with compromised immunity, the infection can be more severe. “It is important to keep these people protected. If there’s a senior citizen at home, they should be given special care and even with the slightest symptoms, one should get themselves checked at a healthcare facility,” added Dr Guleria.

Asked if lockdown was the solution to contain the spread of the virus, Guleria said, “We are trying to decrease the number of cases, decrease the mortality rate and that is why containment and lockdown are strategies that we are currently looking at. Lockdown cannot be an indefinite strategy, other strategies have to be subsequently developed… The most important thing will be community participation and people realising their own responsibility. If this is realised by individuals — in terms of hand washing, in terms of wearing of masks, in terms of social distancing — then infection will not spread and we will not even need a lockdown. You have created a virtual lockdown without a lockdown and many countries have done that. The success story of Sweden is basically because of citizen participation. It’s a challenge, our population is much larger than other countries, but it can be done.”

Ahmedabad, Surat and Gandhinagar have decided to impose a complete lockdown, shutting all essential services except for milk and pharmacy stores.

Guleria praised the infrastructure and protocols put by the Gujarat government and emphasised on interaction between all healthcare workers, nursing staff, and others in the frontline.

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