Containment ring around Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad is ‘bitter pill’ in Covid-19 fight

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PUNE: State health experts, who have been analysing the spread of Covid-19 across Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad, insisted the total lockdown of the two cities late on April 19 was vital to reducing the exponential increase in infection rates.
The lockdown, they said, will give local administrations time to ramp up testing, treatment, surveillance and other measures.

Important concerns include the high case fatality rate in the Pune region (6.8%, which is higher than the state's) and a straining healthcare infrastructure that's still unable to test good numbers of people. There are currently just seven private labs carrying out tests in the district, which has had over 756 positive cases and 50 deaths.
Besides these problems, another major worry among the experts is what will happen once restrictions are relaxed. Specialists TOI spoke to said lockdowns and curfews would only "postpone" cases, which may then return — and likely rise in number — once the curbs are lifted.
The technical advisor to the state government on infectious diseases, Dr Subhash Salunke described the fresh lockdown as a “bitter pill”. It had to be done because of 5-10% of citizens in both cities were violating rules, he said. "So a combination of social distancing, faster contact tracing, effective implementation of quarantine protocols and increased testing will have to be achieved to flatten the curve here," he said.
This month has seen a massive surge in cases in the district, just weeks after the first Covid-19 case was registered in Pune city on March 9. As of April 20, there are over 750 cases of Covid-19 infections with over 50 dead across the district. On Monday alone, authorities registered 87 fresh cases.
Dr Raju Jotkar, a public health expert, said the district's high case fatality rate suggests a need for improved triaging, case management and optimal use of resources. "The state's task force should review the situation. This lockdown seems to have come at the right time," he said, while adding that easing of restrictions should be gradual.
Dr Avinash Bhondwe, the state president of the Indian Medical Association, said a fresh, stricter lockdown was the only way to stop people from breaking social distancing rules. He too added that measures such as testing and home quarantining should be pursued with renewed vigour. "Clinical testing should be should be increased across Pune and PCMC areas. In Mumbai, testing stands at 1,700 per million of population; for Pune and PCMC, it should be at least 50% of that figure," he said.
Bhondwe added home quarantining has been hit as 20% of the region's population doesn't have homes large enough for effective distancing. He recommended the government take over buildings to improve quarantine measures. "Besides that, I think everyone should be given free masks."
The IMA head also dismissed the idea that the infection curve is about to flatten. "The graph has been rising right from March. The number of new patients dips for a day or two, only to rise again. We can only claim to have achieved a flattening of the curve if there are no new cases for at least a week."
Former additional chief secretary of health and urban development TC Benjamin said all government departments should be involved in fighting the pandemic. "This has been achieved in Kerala. And if Kerala can do it, this state can do it much better," he said.
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