Prelims level : Medicine and Pharmaceuticals Mains level : GS-II Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
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Why in News?

  • Experts say that the pandemic can be slowed only by a lockdown as well as by ensuring universal Mask Use.

What is an Epidemic Curve?

  • On the curve, Y axis and X axis represent case numbers and time, respectively.
  • A normal epidemic curve is bell-shaped, with an early ascending slope (first phase), a peak (second phase) and a declining slope (third phase).
  • The area under the curve represents the total number of cases. India is now in the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Need of an Hour:

  • Flattening the epidemic curve (case distribution curve) is the need of the day.
  • A rapid increase in cases will demand far more healthcare facilities than now available.
  • Healthcare facilities were not created in anticipation of a pandemic and are grossly inadequate for India to tackle the first phase.
  • A flattening of the curve will reduce the demand on beds in intensive care units, respirators, and specialists to manage acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • The peak will be dwarfed and come after some breathing time; the pressure will be eased.

How the Curve can be Flattened?

  • There are two ways of flattening the curve: imposing a strict lockdown for a number of weeks or use of face masks all the time when outside our homes.
  • A lockdown physically distances families from each other.
  • There are four reasons for the Universal Use of Masks.
  1. 1.First, any infected person will not infect others because the droplets of fluids that we let out during conversations, coughing or sneezing will be blocked by the mask.
  2. 2.Second, uninfected people will have some protection from droplet infection during interactions with others. For those who wear eyeglasses, there is additional protection from droplets falling on the conjunctiva. When both parties wear masks, the probability of transmission is virtually zero.
  3. 2.Third, the mask-wearers will avoid inserting their fingertips into their nostrils or mouths. Viruses deposited on surfaces may be carried by hand if we touch such surfaces; if we do not touch our eyes, nostrils or mouth; this mode of transmission is prevented.
  4. 4.Fourth, everyone will be reminded all the time that these are abnormal days.
  • In overcrowded areas such as slums, a lockdown will not be efficient in slowing down transmission.
  • In such places, universal mask use is a simple way to slow down transmission. In India the wise choice would have been to ensure universal mask use in slums, bazaars, shops selling essential commodities, etc.

Way Forward:

  • COVID-19 mortality is due to Three Reasons.
  1. 1.Virus virulence is the given and cannot be altered.
  2. 2.Co-morbidity (diabetes, chronic diseases) is already prevalent.
  3. 3.Then there is low-quality healthcare.
  • Slowing down the epidemic by imposing a lockdown and ensuring universal mask use gives us the chance to protect people from infection and improve healthcare quality; wherever that was done, the mortality was less than 1%.
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