Bihar becomes latest state to impose night curfew: Here’s why experts say this isn’t an effective tool to fight COVID-19 spread



The country is witnessing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases in the country; on Tuesday, the tally rose to over 50,000 — the highest daily tally since 19 June 2021

After reporting its first cases of the Omicron variant on 2 December, India crossed the 2,000 mark on Tuesday after Karnataka reported 153 more cases.

Owing to the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant, infections in the country have risen exponentially. On Tuesday, the country’s COVID-19 case count had galloped to 57,974 by late night. This was over 20,000 higher than the tally of 37,123 recorded on Monday and India’s highest daily tally since 19 June 2021, when 58,570 cases were reported.

Maharashtra led the pack with 18,466 fresh infections, up 50 percent from 12,160 on the previous day. Of these total infections in the state, Mumbai recorded 10,860 new cases, up 34.37 percent from a day ago.

Bengal posted 9,073 new cases, again a 50 percent rise from Monday’s tally of 6,078. Delhi reported 5,481 new cases, the second highest for a city after Mumbai.

Several states have imposed night curfews and other curbs to arrest the spread of COVID-19. However, this idea has been questioned by experts, with World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan, saying there’s ‘no science behind it’.

Here’s a look at which states have implemented a night curfew and what experts have to say on the issue.

Night curfews imposed where?

Ahead of New Year celebrations, Delhi authorities had imposed a night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am. On Tuesday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority announced a weekend curfew, mandating everyone, barring essential workers, to stay at home.

On 24 December 2021, Maharashtra had imposed a night curfew in the state.

The Punjab government, on Tuesday, decided to impose a night curfew, shutting down educational institutions and allowing cinema halls to operate with 50 percent capacity. Movement of all individuals for non-essential activities shall remain prohibited between 10 pm to 5 am.

The Karnataka government too had imposed a “night curfew” from 28 December for 10 days from 10 pm to 5 am. Under this curfew, eateries, pubs, hotels and restaurants could have 50 percent capacity, as per the Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar.

West Bengal also has extended its night curfew across the state up to 15 January. Restrictions on movement of people and vehicles will be applicable from 11 pm to 5 am.

The Goa government, led by Pramod Sawant, also imposed a night curfew between 11 pm and 6 am in the state. Bihar, led by Nitish Kumar, also saw the imposition of a night curfew from Tuesday for a fortnight till 21 January. As per the rules, all movement in the state would be curbed from 10 pm till 5 am.

What do experts say?

Doctors, virologists, epidemiologists and others in the medical industry are, however, questioning the imposition of night curfews, asking why there aren’t any restrictions on daytime gatherings.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, WHO’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said there was no science behind night curfews when it came to tackling the spread of COVID-19 variants.

She added that countries like India must formulate science-based policies for curbing the spread of the virus. “Entertainment venues are places where these viruses spread the most. It’s natural to bring in some restrictions there,” Swaminathan further stated.

Dr Vikas Maurya, head of department (pulmonology), Fortis hospital, is also of the same opinion and had stated this to Economic Times. Night curfew does not break the chain of transmission. It might slow down transmission. The government should ideally concentrate on implementation of Covid-appropriate behaviour. It is very important to wear a mask, sanitise your hands and avoid crowded places. The government should also concentrate on crowding at public places during the day. Steps should be taken to reduce these congestions,” he was quoted as saying.

Centre for Cellular and Microbiology, Hyderabad, Director Dr Rakesh Mishra while speaking to journalist Faye D’Souza was quoted as saying: “Night curfew is just absurd. I don’t think it helps in anyway apart from psychological. We should try to minimise density of people in working places.”

He questioned the logic of keeping theatres open during the day where people sat less than six feet apart and keeping places shut in the night.

But, there are some who say that while night curfews aren’t an answer to stopping the spike in cases, it does aid in ‘breaking the chain’ of transmission.

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a scientific advisor, a doctor who has worked across multiple continents and a former President of Indian Medical Association-Cochin, explained to IndiaToday, “It is easy to criticise measures like night curfews because obviously the virus does not know night from day. But we must also remember that there are not many alternatives in sight which achieve the seemingly impossible balance — where economy will largely be unaffected, but social gatherings can be restricted. A lockdown is severely disruptive – and is not an option anymore.”

With inputs from agencies

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