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What Strategies Can India Adopt To Prevent the Spread Of Coronavirus In India With more and more people showing coronavirus symptoms and no immediate cure in sight, precautionary measures seems to be our only safety net for now.

By Dr. Monika Chaudhary

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Florida has declared a public health emergency and Berlin has reported its first case. It is apparent that the coronavirus outbreak that happened in China has transcended to second, third and fourth countries. In India, Kerala has reported three cases and one each in Delhi, Hyderabad and Jaipur. Coronavirus has spread to 34 more countries in just a month's time. At Mumbai International Airport, passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Italy, Iran, and Malaysia are being closely monitored. World Health Organization has not declared it a pandemic yet but it's nearing that periphery.

Social Distancing

The virus advances by droplets infused in the air during coughing and sneezing. One way to prevent it from spreading is to do social distancing that is shutting any kind of social gathering. India is a densely populated country. All social institutions as schools, colleges, public transport, malls and public parks will soon shut down to prevent its multitude. Evidence has shown that crowded emergency rooms of the hospitals are the access points for the virus too.

Restricting Travel

Preventing the virus to enter the Indian territory is the best public health response that the country should provide to its citizens. This would mean stopping visas for the affected nations and conducting screening at all the international airports, seaports, and borders in the country. The virus inflowing into the country through neighboring countries is also a threat as cases have been found in Nepal and Pakistan as well.

Health Care Strengthening

Health authorities in many countries are frantically trying to prepare for a possible spread of the virus epidemic. Hospitals run out of testing kits, respirators, oxygen, masks, gown, gloves and drugs when the epidemic spreads, and stockpiling by hospitals need to be done. Isolation wards and units must be prepared in order to keep patients quarantine. The mortality of the disease is 2 per cent and those with weak immunity are at higher risk.

The way an epidemic hitchhike depends upon a variable, the reproductive rate, R-the rate at which a new case will give rise to further cases. R is going to be high in countries where public health interventions are less. Physical barriers, good hygiene and reducing various forms of blending can help bring the R down. Well-equipped healthcare facilities with enough supplies and public awareness can provide a better response to the epidemic.

Self-Reporting and Self Isolating

The good thing about Corona is that the fatality of the virus is low. The fatality rate in Hubei, the province of China, where Wuhan is located is 2.9 per cent. All those who test positive with mild symptoms, are health wise not facing much discomfort, little cough and fever, at the initial stages. If they self-isolate themselves at home, for 14 days and take regular medicines, they will be fine, but they will have to wait for another 14 days before they get back to normal life, so that they do not infect others. Awareness among the people to self-report and self-isolate will help in containing the disease from spreading. A strong messaging system within the country would also be effective.

Public Awareness

A situation of panic in the case of any epidemic makes things shoddier. This disease is indeed like any other flu and can eventually be handled by medicine and care. A sudden influx of patients in hospitals in China made them overwhelmed. India will not be able to impose as strict restrictions as China but an aware population that neither dismisses the risk not panic nor handles the times of crisis with compassion and courage will put India in a good stead. Government will have to take steps to restrict public gatherings and compensating a loss of job, and wages to the poor. A digitized service industry is available in divisions in the country will too help in enclosing the spread. Finally, those who are in panic for losing wealth because of the loss of health will also have to exercise patience to keep the nation economically and physically fit.

Dr. Monika Chaudhary

Associate Professor, IIHMR University

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