SRINAGAR — The Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Thursday urged administration to ensure that reopening criteria are met before lifting lockdown in Kashmir.
“The decision to ease out restriction should be determined by the criteria,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
Dr Hassan said the first and foremost criterion for reopening of economic activities is that there should be a two-week drop in Covid cases, indicating that the virus is actually abating. “A simple reduction in cases compared to two weeks prior isn’t enough. It has to be a significant drop and it has to be sustained over two weeks,” he said.
“There should be at least 10 percent drop in daily new cases compared to two weeks prior and at least 5 percent drop compared to one week prior,” he added.
“Reported cases are a reflection of testing capacity. More testing will pick up more cases and less testing will pick up fewer,” Dr Hassan said, adding, “So, it is important that the decrease in cases occur while the testing is being done sufficiently – at least 150 new tests per 100,000 people per day.”
The DAK President said it is not enough for daily new Covid cases to drop, even for weeks, cases should fall below a certain level before it can be deemed truly safe to relax.
“While there is no universally acceptable number, 4 daily new cases per 100,000 people is a reasonable ceiling,” he said, and added, “A positive rate for tests below 5 percent is another critical indicator.”
He said it is vitally important that the number of hospitalizations and deaths are coming down. “There should be at least 40 percent of ICU beds free to actually treat an influx of people stricken with Covid should it be necessary,” he said.
Dr Nisar said reopening should be driven by data rather than by public pressure or economy. “If relaxation is done without criteria, COVID-19 could bounce back and we may end up in another severe outbreak because not enough people are vaccinated yet to give population protection against the virus,” he said.