Bangladesh will end its third week of lockdown, albeit a very relaxed one, on April 14 and so will India.
The question now is: Then what?
These two countries are similar in many ways including the patterns of infection. Is it okay to lift the 21-day lockdown and return to normal life?
A study by the University of Cambridge suggests a single lockdown of 21 days will not be effective and the virus will again go virulent.
The study has rather suggested either a straight 49-day lockdown or three lockdowns for 21 days, 28 days and 18 days – with relaxation of five days in between – that only can control coronavirus effectively.
Two researchers – Ronojoy Adhikari and Rajesh Singh from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics of Cambridge University – also said that the virus will have a resurgence after the 21-day lockdowns are lifted in India and Bangladesh.
The study is now being examined by the Indian Council of Medical Research to chart-out future strategy and India is likely to make a decision today in this regard.
Meanwhile, in a video meeting with the leaders of all parties, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday said the lockdown will be extended and restrictions will not be lifted in one go after April 14 as the virus continues unbridled, killing more people and infecting hundreds every day. A number of states have already requested the central government to extend the lockdown.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has warned the virus situation may worsen in April and further steps will be considered depending on the situation.
However, it is not clear if the Cambridge model is being seriously taken by our policymakers.
An analysis of data of the worst affected countries shows the virus becomes virulent in either the fourth or fifth week from the first detection of infection.
Unlike the other countries, Bangladesh has not applied a wholesale lockdown. It has been applied only to areas where virus infected patients have been detected.
Bangladesh has also not been proactive with many measures the other countries took such as early shutdown of international flights and forced quarantine.
Why Vietnam is free of coronavirus now
Since March 5, Vietnam has found no positive cases. So far it has 240 positive cases. It has about 70,000 people in quarantine.
Unlike South Korea, Vietnam has little capability of testing and it has tested only about 15,000 people.
The World Economic Forum has explained its success to Vietnam's swift suspension of all flights to and from China. It also decided to keep schools closed after the lunar New Year break. It also imposed a 21-day lockdown.
But more than that, it has gone for a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in Vietnam and the cancellation of foreign flights, something that Bangladesh failed to do.
It has also tracked down each person that an infected person has come in contact with and isolated them.
Vietnam had faced special trouble with its number 17 infected person, a rich woman who had flown in and slipped through the airport check. It is thought the infection peaked in Vietnam because of this woman's action.
The authorities hunted her down. It also quarantined all the persons that she had come in touch with.
Vietnam ran a house to house awareness programme. Health workers went around and advised people on what to do during the virus infection.
Sweden does not believe in lockdown
Sweden has 400 deaths – more than the US per capita. Yet it has not locked down its society and is following a very relaxed social distancing rule.
It has let its people go out and mix freely and is asking the elderly to remain indoors. But that too is not any strict instruction. It has also not stopped people from going out of or coming into the country.
Sweden's public spaces and restaurants are full of people enjoying the summer sunshine. Sweden believes the virus will weaken and go away just as any virus does.
China followed total lockdown
China imposed a strict lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei on January 23 to slow down the spread of the virus shutting down the economy resulting in disruption of the global supply chain. It also carried out aggressive tests and contact tracing. After two months, the restrictions were lifted in the last week of March, allowing resumption of economic activities amid fear of imported cases.
South Korea did not lockdown
Outside of China, South Korea was the first worst affected country. It however did not follow China's model of strict lockdown. It rather conducted aggressive testing of people for coronavirus and extensive contact tracing alongside enforcement of the social distancing rule.
Use of advanced technology helped South Korea to run ahead of the virus and win the battle.
A government-run big-data platform has stored information of all citizens and resident foreign nationals and integrated all government organisations, hospitals, financial services, mobile operators, and other services into it.
It has an app called Corona 100m that has mapped the locations of Covid-19 patients and alerts users if they come within 100 metres of an infected person. It used CCTVs extensively in contact-tracing. There is also a mobile app to keep track of the health status of overseas visitors.
Private companies and organisations have also adopted high-tech solutions to fight the virus.
The country on Tuesday reported fewer than 50 new cases for the second straight day. It has been reporting around 100 fewer new cases for more than three weeks.
Bangladesh ran behind the virus
Bangladesh is following the lockdown model though not in a proper way. First, it enforced a seven-day shutdown from March 26. Then it was extended for another seven days and again for another three days.
The high population density and rate of poverty appear to be the major problems in enforcing lockdowns and effective social distancing. The risk of local transmission went up many times when people left Dhaka for their homes in hordes after the government announced public holiday at the end of March.
Again, we saw an exodus of RMG workers this week as they rushed to the capital in hordes to join their works while the authorities vacillated on whether the factories would remain closed or not.
The extended shutdown will end on April 14, next Tuesday. Top officials in the government said they were closely monitoring the situation. Considering the gravity of the situation, the government will decide whether shutdown would be extended or not.
Epidemiologists, however, suggested Bangladesh to prepare for a longer lockdown as the Cambridge study advised for a straight 49-days lockdown or three lockdowns.