According to the World Health Organization, there are six conditions that needs to be met before deciding to end a lockdown.
And so, let’s explore them and see how it goes.
One. Disease transmission is under control.
Two. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case – and trace every contact.”
Three. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes.
Four. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures.
Five. The risk of importing new cases “can be managed.”
Six. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal.
Our take is that while the six conditions is a good starting point, it needs to be a little more specific and fine-tuned – at the same time – there are some realities that needs to be faced even during a lockdown.
One. What metrics would indicate that COVID-19 is under control? No new cases? As we have noticed of the virus so far, it does not really falter in warmer temperatures. Moreover, we see a number of reinfections occurring in countries like, China and South Korea; not to mention, the virus has mutated into more than 30 strains.
If this is the case, we will need at least a full six months to determine if a lockdown could be ended. But can we afford it? Almost impossible.
Thus, ‘total control’ of COVID-19 can only be successful when issues on ‘temperature’, reinfection and mutability has been resolved. Else, this virus would be more than just seasonal but a depopulation thing.
Two. Detect, test, isolate and treat every case is possible if every case is reported. Otherwise, tracing every contact would not even be doable.
Thence, key here would be reporting or checking on particularly those who are in self-isolation and having regular contact with their caregivers – with caregivers needing to run errands or even seek food and supplies. This is one of those ‘not so’ hidden cases that may lack government support which could contribute to a second wave of infection.
As it is, their criterions only incites possible corruption in local governments – that not everyone who actually needs support are getting it. Including the uninfected but vulnerable as well as the unemployed who risks infection or a tougher recovery since they are undernourished or hungry.
Three. Hot spot risks should not just be minimized but eliminated in vulnerable places. It’s vulnerable! That means, any slight opening is a chance for COVID-19 to wreck havoc and turn the place into a hot spot.
Four. Schools, workplaces, supermarkets are easier to control – but places like churches, concerts, sporting events and even movie theaters are harder to manage since it involves emotions and require even larger spaces to allow ‘social distancing’ for thousands.
What could happen then is that only a limited number of people could attend an event, thereby, making tickets super expensive which could lead to the collapse of the entertainment and sports industries – as there’s no guarantee that sponsors will shoulder more of the organizers ‘expenses’ and desire for profits.
Five. Managing imported new cases would first depend on the origin of the ‘traveler’. Has the traveler’s origin flattened its curve? Else, you risk taking in asymptomatic people.
Yes, quarantines could help but – but the traveler is already in your place.
Six. This ‘new normal’ should have a timetable or is eased in phases. Think about this. Can you take the thought of wearing a face mask indefinitely? Or not being able to come close, touch or give a handshake to a friend you see on the road, forever?
While everyone may have been oriented on this new norm, humans are still social animals. This is why the entertainment and sports industries would be chartering unknown territory.
At the end of the day, an effective vaccine would then be the great equalizer – if mutations are ‘more than deadly’. And the only saving grace while in wait would be a strong immune system.