COVID-19 | Lockdown slowed the spread of the virus in India, says study

A study by the University of Michigan in the US and India Today magazine has concluded that the lockdown imposed by India has been successful in slowing the spread of the SARS-cov-2 virus in the nation.

India went into a state of lockdown from March 25 and had a strict implementation for a period of 54 days before certain conditions were relaxed from May 18. It is the states that were given permission under the quasi-federal nature of the Indian polity to decide on the relaxations. Some of the states relaxed the conditions of the lockdown slightly whereas others have relaxed it to a great extent.

When the state of lockdown was imposed, India reported about 500 cases. However, it crossed the 1 lakh mark when the lockdown conditions were relaxed on May 18.

Can we then assume that the lockdown was not able to slow the spread of the virus?

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The University of Michigan and the India Today magazine disagree with this observation and released data that shows that the rate of transmission has slowed down because of the lockdown.

Here are their observations:

The measurement of the reproductive rate (R-naught)—that represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case—has been studied.

A R0 or R-naught of 2 would mean that one positive person can infect two people and a R0 of anything less than 1 would indicate that the virus cannot even affect one individual.

The study found that a day before the lockdown came into effect (March 24), the R0 was 3.36. This mean that the spread of the virus was potent that one person could affect more than 3 people.

At the end of Phase 1 of the lockdown (on April 14), this number came down to 1.71. On May 3, the day when Lockdown 2.0 came to an end, this number further reduced to 1.46 and on May 16, this number dipped to 1.27.

This shows that the lockdown reduced the spread of the virus to a great extent. However, the fact that this number is still above 1 is a cause for concern. The study points out that the authorities need to work towards bringing down the R0 to below 1.

The study also pointed out that there is great inter-state variation. It is divided into four categories: R0 above 2 are red states, R0 which is below 1 are green states, states with R0 above the national average of 1.27 and states below the national average.

The most severe state remains Odisha (R0 3) and Punjab with an R0 of 0.5 remains the least affected state.

Another study conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata found that the lockdown has averted about 20 lakh cases and 54,000 deaths.

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