SARS-CoV-2 i.e. novel coronavirus continues to take thousands of lives across the globe. It is compelling authorities to impose lockdowns and take stringent steps to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing. The Government of India has colour-coded districts and zones depending on the number of COVID-19 patients in the area.
The decision of the government to mark these containment zones is to monitor the spread and strategize combat plans. It will also help handle the dwindling economy before it crumbles down. This would lead to the relaxation of lockdown measures in areas with low levels of contagion as a sigh of relief to the small businesses that have been on a standstill for many weeks. The colours represent the level of infection in the regions in a descending order marking them as red, orange, and green respectively.
(number of districts in each zone as of on 30/04/2020)
Red zones are the worst affected hotspots of the virus in the country. Buffer zones up to 5-7 km around the hotspots would be marked by the administration to avoid the spread of the disease to the neighbouring ones.
Which districts qualify as Red Zone?
- Highest caseload districts contributing to more than 80% of cases in India
- Highest caseload contributing to more than 80% of cases for each state in India
- Districts with a doubling rate of fewer than 4 days (calculated every Monday by the state government)
Activities allowed: Such areas would undergo imposition of strict lockdown procedures with no activities allowed. As the central government promised to relax the lockdown measures in selected districts after 20 April, the zones marked red by the date would not fit the remittal. Four-wheelers with a maximum of two people will be allowed that too with one seated in the backseat. Only one person will be allowed in a two-wheeler. Masks are mandatory for everyone. Medical services like OPD and medical assistance will be open but it’s advised to avoid going unless urgent attention is required. Stand-alone shops and residential shops will be allowed to open. Government offices with up to 33% attendance. Agriculture and animal husbandry along with their supply chain. Banks, insurance and capital market activities will be allowed to work.
Downgrading to other zones: As per the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, red zones with no reportage of new cases for 21 days would be assigned the orange zone status and eventually green zone status if the situation remains the same for 28 days.
The orange colour assigned to a district indicates some level of infection in the zone.
Which districts qualify as Orange Zone?: Orange zones/ potential hotspots are the regions where the number of infected people has been limited with no recent surge.
Activities allowed: In addition to the activities listed in the red zone, recommencement of confined public transport. Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for essential goods such as wheat flour and oils would be allowed to continue under strict guidelines. Postal and courier services. Ordering of essentials via e-commerce. Shops and services for mobile, laptops and stationeries with limitations. However educational institutions and public places such as cinema halls and shopping complexes would remain shut.
Downgrading to other zones: Orange zone areas would be downgraded to green zones if no new cases are reported in the district for 21 days.
Green colour denotes a region with no affected individuals.
Criterion: According to the health ministry, any district with no reported positive cases of the virus for the past 28 days can be put under this category.
Activities allowed: These zones would experience a maximum easing of restrictions to bring back the normal functioning of the district. These include the opening of MSME industries with in-house lodging facilities for employees with proper maintenance of social distance. Reopening of liquor shops and others contributing to state revenue would be permitted. Maintenance of preventive measures along with keeping hospitals ready in case of emergencies is to be taken care of in such zones. Public buses and transport will resume but with restrictions. Industries can resume work with up to 33% workforce. Regular amenities like plumbing, electrician and incomplete construction projects if labour is available.
The colour marking of containment zones would help governments in taking necessary testing measures according to the level of infection in the zone. Many state governments are taking up ‘pool testing’ as a method to detect a lot of cases in less time. As recommended by the WHO, this involves testing several samples from a group of individuals collectively in a tube, based on swabbing of the nose and throat. If the test comes out to be negative, the group of individuals is wholly negative to the virus. If it is positive, the entire group is to be tested individually.
The identification of hotspots would be done weekly to analyze the new cases in the areas. Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan has advised state authorities to utilize the extended lockdown period maximally to convert hotspot areas into orange zones and ultimately into green ones. The smart lockdown intends to bridge the widening gap between providing healthcare provisions in these times of pandemic and saving the downfalling finance sector. This middle path if followed correctly would safeguard lives and the economic prosperity of the nation as well.