Covid-19: Understanding the rationale for a lockdown

Covid-19: Understanding the rationale for a lockdown

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world, more and more governments have taken the drastic step of locking down their countries. However, for this measure to work effectively, it is important to understand the rationale for a lockdown against the Covid-19 virus. Otherwise, the measure may actually work against the very purpose of the lockdown, which is to drastically reduce the spread of the virus within the country.

The goal of a lockdown is to reduce human to human interactions to the bare minimum. Looking at the above diagram, you can see how powerful it is when social distancing is properly implemented. This gives us two immediate benefits.

The first benefit is that it immediately reduces the number of individuals infected by the virus. However, for overall disease control, it is the second benefit that is even more important. This second benefit is that by slowing down the spread of the virus, it allows the country’s healthcare agencies and frontliners time to manage contact tracing, testing, isolation and treatment without being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.

When we allow the virus to spread fast, the frontliners are just too overwhelmed by the number of people crowding clinics and hospitals, waiting to be screened and tested. This stresses the healthcare workers, quickly depleting testing kits, personal protective equipments (PPE) and patience.

There is not a single country in the world that has unlimited healthcare resources to tackle this pandemic. Therefore, it becomes important for them to make the best use of whatever resources they may have at their disposal. Test kits are limited. PPE are also limited. Doctors and nurses are also limited. Furthermore, this pandemic will likely last many months. Stressed healthcare workers will become careless, and more will be infected by the virus, thus reducing the very people we need to fight this pandemic.

Thus, when a lockdown is in place, the people must work together with the government and all its agencies in order to overcome this pandemic. The first thing to do is not to panic.

Testing for Covid-19 Infection

For now, the guideline for testing is if a person has symptoms such as fever and cough, AND has a close contact with someone who is known to have the Covid-19 infection. Likewise, if you are symptomatic after returning from countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy (or other known clusters) in the last 2 weeks, you can get yourself tested at a government facility near you. This includes being near a known local cluster, such as a family with a confirmed Covid-19 infection, or in a congregation or gathering with known Covid-19 infection. There is no need to see your GP as they will also send you to be tested at the nearest government clinic.

If you are without any symptoms, but have close contact with someone known to be infected with the virus or you have just returned from the above mentioned countries in the last 2 weeks, you should quarantine yourself for 14 days. During this self-quarantine, you should regularly check your temperature and well-being, and to also practice distancing yourself from others, particularly the elderly. Anytime you start to develop symptom, you should get yourself check at the nearest government clinic.

This self-quarantine is a form of social responsibility. You may not be sick as you are asymptomatic, but you may still be carrying the virus in your body and therefore has the potential to spread it to others. By self-quarantine for 2 weeks, you help to reduce the risk of spreading the virus without overwhelming the frontliners.

Another point to note is that when the lockdown is in place, you should stay put at wherever you are, instead of going back to your hometown or kampung. The reason for this is that, like the asymptomatic carrier, you may not know whether you have the virus in your body or not. Thus, if you are a carrier and you return to your hometown, you are helping the virus to spread to a location that may initially be free from the virus. This will create a new hotspot and centre of spread for the virus, worsening the spread instead of limiting it.

So, let us all come together as one and help each other overcome this virus by staying at home as much as possible, and reducing human to human interactions and activities. Also, take care to practice good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing and social distancing.

Last but not least, give a compassionate thought to the frontline doctors and nurses facing this menace head on, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, to help keep us and our loved ones safe.

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