As govt decides to unlock, is herd immunity the solution?

New Delhi: People give swab samples for coronavirus testing at a mobile COVID-19 testing centre, in New Delhi on Aug 13, 2020. (Photo: IANS)
With the government's decision to unlock due to several socio-economic reasons, people have started ignoring social distancing norms, experts say. Image courtesy: IANS
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New Delhi: With the Covid-19 pandemic striking hard and spreading rapidly in India, health experts have urged people to continue following social distancing norms even in the unlock phases and refrain from wilfully exposing oneself to the virus in a bid to achieve herd immunity.

With the government's decision to unlock due to several socio-economic reasons, people have started ignoring social distancing norms, the experts said.

Herd immunity is achieved when enough people become infected with a virus to stop its spread.

"We can see a large number of people are moving around in markets or other crowded places without masks. Many people believe that herd immunity is the solution," Puneet Khanna, HOD and Consultant - Respiratory Medicine, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals in New Delhi, told IANS.

"In a densely populated country like India, herd immunity can only be a solution if we have some kind of vaccination available for the most vulnerable people," he explained.

"So relying on herd immunity as a solution at this stage when vaccination is not available would be a wrong clinical and policy level approach," Khanna stressed.

He added that instead of relying on the government, people should on their own emphasise on strict social distancing, wear a mask, and use of sanitizer and stick to hand hygiene for checking the virus spread.

According to a study published in the journal The Lancet, to achieve herd immunity that would protect the uninfected, around 70 per cent to 90 per cent of a population needs to be immune.

Speaking to IANS, Praveen Gupta, Director and Head, Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram said that the infection prevalence in Indian population continues to be very low at 300 per lakh population and we are very far away from herd immunity at this time.

"We, however, cannot remain in lockdown for a prolonged period of time as it is not feasible. So to open up gradually in a phased manner is the only option, however, we should not try to expose ourselves to go for herd immunity," he said.

"Understanding the need to open up and carry on with some of the activities, the government still needs to spread the message for necessary precautions to be taken to prevent the spread of the infection," Gupta added.

According to Navneet Sood, a pulmonology consultant at Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital in New Delhi, herd immunity is not something which can be attained so easily, especially when this virus is so unpredictable.

"This virus had hit our country almost six months back, now with mutation of this virus, reports of survivors also being at risk of getting infected again with the same frequency have surfaced," said Sood.

"The parallel reality of economic slowdown is apparent. Our GDP is now in negative figures.

"We need to understand the psychology of people first, especially when they have a family at home to feed. Although it is surely not right to go out and put one's life at the risk of this infection, precautions are the key," Sood explained.

When the crowd is hard to manage outside, as we are in the midst of a pandemic, things need to be managed and organised, the doctor noted.

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