For the high-risk areas, the plan has been kept stringent, even though some careful margin has been allowed, which the lockdown does not permit.
The Centre for Disaster Management and Training of the Indian Railway Institute of Transport Management (IRITM), Lucknow has prepared a detailed exit strategy for lifting the COVID-19 lockdown in a phased manner. This has been suggested by the institute in its detailed paper titled ‘Exit Strategy for COVID-19 Lockdown’. According to an IE report, the paper has been sent to the Railway Board and also shared with Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog. The strategy for lifting the lockdown involves the following measures:
- Isolating the country’s districts based upon a COVID-19 active cases risk profile
- Keeping the elder citizens confined to homes
- Not allowing a congregation of more than 50 people
- Prohibition of religious and political gatherings in the high-risk areas
- Opening up of interstate travel between the lesser affected districts
The paper proposes scientific identification of districts with higher COVID-19 vulnerability and isolating them from the rest of the country, instead of a one-size-fitting-all exit strategy. It also suggests allowing economic activity after the 21-day lockdown. The states which are classified as the ones with low vulnerability or where the overall density of the active cases is .01 per million population have been proposed to be brought back to normalcy as far as possible, with a few do’s and don’t’s. In the low-risk areas, permission will not be required to operate the essential services, or to operate the interstate passenger travel in Indian Railways, roadways as well as waterways. The interstate travel will be allowed, provided that the transit route or the destination does not involve the high-risk places. The domestic airline activities can also operate among low-risk areas. The plan added that those districts which have reported positive COVID-19 cases but have not reported any new positive cases for the last 28 days, can be allowed for inter-district movement.
The strategy proposes that public transport must be operated with half capacity and factories, industries, mines can be opened in the unaffected areas. However, they can be opened only if the employees are available within the state and no interstate movement of labour is involved. Also, in order to facilitate the agricultural harvest, the transport of labourers from the unaffected districts to other necessary destinations should be supported by the state. The places of worship may be opened in the low-risk areas but mass congregation should not be allowed.
Rishi Raghav, an Indian Railway Traffic Service Officer was quoted in the report saying that economic activity cannot be suspended forever and based on the spread of cases, there are several areas where the activity is possible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the chief ministers to work on a staggered exit strategy and the paper is a result to produce the same, he added.
For the high-risk areas, the plan has been kept stringent, even though some careful margin has been allowed, which the lockdown does not permit. The states have been divided into four different categories.
- For the states with 50 or more COVID-19 patients, where the virus has spread across 75 per cent of the districts have been categorised as Stage 4 or ‘extreme vulnerability’
– In such states, the interstate passenger movement has been proposed to be prohibited. The elder citizens are required to stay at home and all essential services must be delivered to them.
– In these states, the districts with active cases must be isolated and movement from such areas within the state should be barred.
- For the states with 20-49 positive COVID-19 cases have been classified as Stage 3 or ‘high vulnerability’. For such states, domestic airlines may be opened but without onboard catering facilities.
– The road, railway and waterway travel between states has been proposed to be shut for the affected districts in such states. However, in the rest of the state, the inter-district movement can be allowed, including railways, roadways, airways and waterways.
– The passenger alighting/boarding should not be allowed in the affected districts. The urban transit systems such as buses, metro etc have been proposed to be shut.
- A fifth category termed as Stage 0 has also been mentioned in the paper. This involves such a state where all the past active cases have recovered before a duration of 21 days, indicating a situation of ‘zero’ cases, when the state can be classified as Stage 0.