India first declared a strict nationwide lockdown on March 25, last year, just 15 days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus, a pandemic. At that time, the country had reported some 600 COVID-19 cases. A little over a year later, India is reeling under a massively aggressive second wave with over 300,000 cases and 3,000 deaths being reported daily. The Centre, this time, has told the states to refrain from imposing lockdowns and focus on micro-containment zones.
However, Dr Anthony Fauci, USA's top infectious diseases expert, and one of the prominent faces of the country's fight against the coronavirus, has said that one of the things India needs to do is to "shut down" the country "temporarily."
"You can shut down temporarily to put an end to the cycle of transmission," Fauci told The Indian Express.
"No one likes to lock down the country," he said, adding that it's a problem when a country shuts down for months and not when it's done for a few weeks.
Fauci's advice for India
On being asked about his advice for the COVID-ravaged country, if he was (hypothetically) hired by the Centre, the infectious diseases expert said that the crisis needs to be handled in phases.
Although vaccinating people is "essential", but it would not alleviate the immediate problem of people needing oxygen, hospitalisation and medical care, as per the US expert.
"That’s not going to fix it now," he said, explaining that it would take a few weeks before "you alleviate the prevention of other people getting sick."
His advice was to get "some sort of a commission, or an emergency group" to plan on how to get oxygen, supplies and medication. "
In the next phase, according to him, India should build emergency units that would serve as hospitals, just like China did when the disease exploded there.
"It just seems to me, what I was viewing on television, what people were looking for a desperate need for hospital and care. That’s the first thing," Fauci said.
The next step would be to mobilise different groups of government, like the military, for help. The army could build field hospitals "quickly", "that they built during war."
" You should think of this, in some respects, like a war. The enemy is the virus," he said.
The last leg of the solution would be to vaccinate people, according to Fauci.
Currently, only 2% of India's population is fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
On COVID crisis in India
Fauci described the pandemic situation in India as "very difficult and desperate". His advice, however, is "hang together".
"Hang in there, help each other. Take care of each other and things will get back to normal," he said.
Meanwhile, India logged a record 401,993 COVID-19 cases on Friday, pushing the total tally to 19,164,969. With 3,523 deaths, the total toll has reached 211,853.