Speaker: Dr. Leena Inamdar, PHE at Public Health England
Facilitator: Madira Popat, Digital Enterpreneur
Compiled by: Twinkle Malik
Date: 25th April 2020
At this time of the pandemic, it’s very certain for people to wonder how the other countries are dealing with the virus. Cowin India team decided to cover this in one of the I-CAN conversations. The conversation started with comparing the responses between the UK and India, indeed it’s been a very interesting time to compare and see what are similarities in response that we can see across different continents and governments and to see why these differences have to be there in the response. Dr. Leena shared her personal incident that she was traveling to Burma for a work mission and as the trip was finished, she and her team were coming back in the days around 30 Jan and while traveling they could sense the apprehension at that time amongst travelers that many people were wearing face masks and in that time only the WHO declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern.
Since then she has been following the responses in both the countries as a global public health specialist and directly supporting COVID-19 response in the United Kingdom. There are certain parallels and similarities which we find in response to both countries. Things like social distancing measures that have been put in place by the governments, in the UK there has been regular reportings by the prime minister and public health specialists and likewise in India, there is a regular set of communication by the govt at all levels which is really the key to keeping the common public in form. The emphasis on handwashing which public health practitioners for the years have said that handwashing habit is the single most activity, in public health intervention that people can take at a personal level to protect the person from any infectious disease.
When it comes to protecting the most at risk, the Prime Minister in India as well when he first addressed the nation he did mention that there is a certain population who are over sixty, and people with diseases like diabetes or heart disease need to protect themselves particularly. There are certain commonalities in terms of measures. Things like border control were similar in both countries. If we talk about the differences with the measures then the answer to that is the way and the speed these measures were implemented and reach out to support the underprivileged population that is the major visible difference. But this has a major impact on the vulnerable population of India. On the other hand, the UK government has given the emphasis on protecting the vulnerable group of population and those who are in critical situations after being caught by the virus, they were being provided with proper ventilators and providing them with all necessities as the system had the capacity to do that.
When Dr. Leena was asked about her opinions on what the Indian government has done right which is really worth for India in this scenario and what could be done better, she answered there are a number of measures that the Indian govt. took rapidly and quite early in India the airport screening was instituted which is really important when you are in the initial phase and in the main while the signs and exact symptoms were being developed which is definitely commendable. Another great step was tracing and tracking the returns of people and providing them with isolation facilities and quarantine. Stopping interstate travel in India and blocking the potential hot spot areas were one of the best measures taken to date. One of the exemplary examples in India is Kerala where there is the best public health system so the way they have coped this situation is very commendable. There are task forces at vaccine development and people are looking at research that is a proactive step that the government has taken. The important thing was to put things in pace and communicate with the people and those things did work well. There were various innovative approaches that have also been tried out like Maharashtra govt used drones to get the tacks and traces of affected people.
Miss Mandira put up a question: how effectively social distancing has been implemented in the UK? To this, Dr. Leena answered as of 23rd march the country of the UK has been implementing the social distancing measures and it was not like guidance but it was the government’s official instruction order to follow up. In the initial stage, there was compliance, it took a little bit of time for people to reinforce. But essentially there were three key measures in terms of social distancing that everyone has to stay inside their homes even if they are infected or not, the schools were closed down, all the public spaces were ceased , warrants of work from home were issued . After that, their necessities were considered that the people were provided with the food and essential supplies in their house. And a lot of people who were not able to access things, especially old age people, were provided with the support. Eventually in the second phase, it was evident that there was a widespread local transmission. Then the government on 30 march restricted the policies more.
There’s this another interesting fact , all the households have received the cards on which one side is green and one side is red which signifies that if you are going good and coping up with the lockdown then you put up green side on your front windows and if you face some difficulty or you are unable to access to your necessities then you just put up the red side of your card on your front windows.
When asked about the shielding policy of the UK, she drew our attention on shielding policy is the policy to protect and find the people who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable. As there’s a segment of the population that has certain clinical conditions that make their body at a very high risk of being caught with the virus. So these people were in high need of being shielded and spooning. The government extracted the information of such kind of patients who are at high risk by the previous record of their clinical visit and those people were asked to follow strict quarantine measures to protect them. It indeed was a challenging time for them but was in for their support and safety only.
Dr. Leena also told us about the herd immunity that is usually used in the situation of vaccination programs where minimum number of people are vaccine so that those who cannot have a vaccine and can not be affected by vaccines due to certain medical conditions but yet there is no vaccine available for coronavirus and we are yet unknown about its uncertainties because it’s difficult to access that how an immune system of particular person responds to it. The basic target should be the ability of one person to infect another person should be minimized. By achieving the balance between this, we can say that measures are showing success. But this is not something we should focus right now as it is something to watch for.
Key Highlights of this conversation:-
- How are the other countries dealing with the virus by comparing the responses between the UK and India.
- Parallels and similarities which we find in response to both countries, complete social distancing is one of them.
- The emphasis on handwashing which public health practitioners for the years have said that handwashing habit is the single most activity, in public health intervention that people can take at a personal level to protect the person from any infectious disease.
- If we talk about the differences with the measures then the answer to that is the way and the speed these measures were implemented and reach out to support the underprivileged population that is the major visible difference.
- What the Indian government has done right which is really worth for India in this scenario and what could be done better in context to the UK government.
- Stopping interstate travel in India and blocking the potential hot spot areas were one of the best measures taken to date.
- How effectively social distancing has been implemented in the UK? – The three key measures and the placard system.
- Answers related to the shielding policy of the UK.
- Herd immunity and its implications.