1. Covid-19 : Does India need to revisit its lockdown exit strategy?

  • What important factors  should be considered for a successful exit strategy?

  • How the government can achieve a credible lockdown exit strategy?

  • Taking home the lessons, How should be the Post Covid Institutional Resilience?

UPSC Can list these Questions under

GS paper 2 ( Government policies and schemes)

What is the context about?

  • With the national lockdown coming to a close on May 3 and record highs in confirmed cases in the last one week.
  • Thus it is a crucial juncture to re-examine a cohesive policy pathway and come up with a viable lockdown exit strategy.
  • While a number of states have put forth ideas on phasing out the lockdown, the emphasis should be placed on a more comprehensive and responsive exit strategy, accounting for real progress and preparedness.

What important factors  should be considered for a successful exit strategy?

The three important anchors which form the underlying basis for a staggered exit are: : unsure outcomes of early relaxation, institutional preparedness and flexible phasing.

Unsure outcomes of early relaxation: In its recent guidelines, the government has eased some restrictions on specific sectors in order to mitigate socio-economic hardship to the public. As per studies, there is a high possibility of India experiencing the peak of infections in the coming days/months. Any guided relaxation of restrictions should, therefore, be considered only after the predicted peak period has passed.

Institutional preparedness:

  • Effective phasing out requires a comprehensive approach, where administrative units shift out of lockdown based on not just the predicted rise or fall in infections but also the institutional and operational capacities that should be in place.
  • The staggered exit should, therefore, be taken as an opportunity for strengthening administrative systems, triggering medium-long term institutional changes, moving towards a more responsive pandemic control strategy and perhaps creating more resilient futures.

A flexible approach to a phased exit: 

  • States can activate or remove moderate-to-strict restrictions in an adaptive manner, depending on evidence of infection rates and institutional preparedness.
  • While temporary and short lockdowns will help in delaying the peak of infections, there is a need to bring about a permanent and sustained reduction in transmission, which will truly flatten the curve.

How the government can achieve a credible lockdown exit strategy?

The key to doing so is to identify the core tasks and ensure there is a proper structured command and control in each area. This is a list of the most obvious.

  • Mass testing, including the development of the community force necessary to assist the testing process at scale.
  • Business consultation and partnership to maximize the impact at minimum risks.
  • Therapeutics and Vaccines: Utilisation of every means nationally and globally to identify those treatments which can reduce the severity of the disease.

Taking home the lessons, How should be the Post Covid Institutional Resilience?

  • For sustained pandemic control as well as resistance to crisis and shocks, it is important to transcend from immediate results to real institutional resilience.
  • Long-term structural and institutional changes include strengthening public health expenditure; establishing Medical Emergency Response Teams which requires coordination as well as convergence among Health personnel, Police, and NDMA.
  • Furthermore, there is a need for institutionalising robust social security models, including portability of entitlements and nutritional security.
  • School openings with close consultation with teachers and heads as to how practically to make this work.
  • Intensifying the manual as well as technological tracing.
  • Shielding, Social distancing and Compliance – how do we do it effectively especially for older age groups; advice on parks, public gatherings etc.
  • International travel. When, how and on what terms will it be possible to restart airline activity.