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Special to Express: We need a viable framework to hit a fast-moving and rapidly evolving target like coronavirus

Dr Shashank Heda & Sudhir Mehta writes: "The government is taking a zero-risk approach by clamping prolonged lockdown, while many citizens are behaving in an agnostic manner about the looming threat."

Pune |
Updated: July 18, 2021 1:03:29 am
A health worker collects swab sample of a passenger for Covid-19 test, at Majestic bus stand in Bengaluru. (Photo: PTI)

Written by Dr Shashank Heda & Sudhir Mehta

The strategy in the fight against Covid-19

More aggressive variants of the coronavirus are expected to sweep through the country soon. A precautionary approach is crucial as it is better to be safe than sorry.

Designing solutions and strategies has increasingly become tedious. The government is taking a zero-risk approach by clamping prolonged lockdown, while many citizens are behaving in an agnostic manner about the looming threat.

We need a framework with a viable solution

Against this backdrop, it is crucial to adopt an independent evaluation of the different stakeholders, and a balanced process-based approach that is linked to the desired outcome. Factors such as viral genomics, host vulnerability, and environmental aspects should be taken into consideration to provide a blueprint for building the future roadmap. The blueprint cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ model. To provide a tailor-made solution, we need to adopt a framework, and a model that is built to provide a viable solution. The framework and model should also offer the flexibility to hit a fast-moving and rapidly evolving target like the coronavirus.

CovidRxExchange’s 3 x 3 model provides that insight in building these individualised solutions for individual segments such as critical infrastructure, cities, institutions, and demographics, which need independent assessment and minimisation of risk. The extended life cycle model from CovidRxExchange provides an approach, right from tackling the infection to post-Covid rehabilitation.

We need to watch the infection’s impact on US and UK

The West is suffering the most because of early onslaught of Covid-19 infections, and this is acting like an advanced warning system for Covid-19 globally. By watching the western countries deal with the virus, we can devise a systematic and methodical approach without squandering time.

In India, diverse factors add to complexities

In a perfect system, things work perfectly. In a diverse milieu, such as in India, diverse factors add to the complexities. A country as heterogeneous as India, where citizens have an exalted sense of freedom and where the system has some imperfections and constraints, a closer evaluation is definitely needed before providing recommendations based on complex modeling.

Lockdowns work but only under extreme situations. If lockdowns are imposed earlier than required, they may be counter-productive as well.

We need to understand complexities of the infection

We see comparisons between the current pandemic and the Spanish Flu from 1918. The only parallels are incubation period, transmissivity and reproductive numbers. Thus, making direct comparisons is like comparing apples to oranges. Despite knowing the interaction of the spike protein with the ACE2 receptors (including the TMPRS priming), a lot is not known to science. Why is the spike protein-ACE2 interaction only infecting humans ? Why is it not infecting dogs or other animals as much, which share a similar mechanism?

All factors have to be taken into consideration

The recent wave of infections was a stark realisation of how the virus spreads like wildfire, just like tinder on a dry forest, engulfing the entire forest with fire. Some blamed politicians, others blamed administrators, while a few diligently exploited the scant resources to their benefit. The most applaudable were the doctors, especially those on the frontline, who fought valiantly to contain and defeat the virus.

Have we understood those factors? Have we factored those in our so-called algorithmic model?

We need to devise a productive approach

Can we stop blaming the politicians, policymakers, the press, and the public? Let’s stop blaming, leave our executive desk and work towards a roundtable that understands all the stakeholders, and devises a well-thought, productive approach and framework to fight what comes next.

Dr Shashank Heda, MD, is the Founder and Chief Executive of CovidRxExchange

Sudhir Mehta is the Lead & Coordinator of the Pune Platform for Covid-19 Response, and the President of MCCIA, Pune.

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