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Proposals For The Lockdown And An Exit Strategy

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The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a huge impact on economies and societies across the globe. As Governments and communities tirelessly work towards navigating the challenges created by this pandemic, efforts must be prioritised to maintain continuity of service delivery and make strategic shifts to ensure that the increasingly limited resources provide maximum benefit to the society.

States have taken up several proactive measures to manage and mitigate the spread of this pandemic. It is necessary that, in these testing times, holistic planning and solutions are implemented with the highest efficiency towards containment of the spread of the pandemic and building a more resilient society, prepared for future eventualities.

A strategy of the lockdown can be implemented only when there is:

  •  A sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
  •  Hospitals in the State are safely able to treat all patients requiring hospitalisation without resorting to crisis standards of care.
  •  The State can test all people with COVID-19 symptoms. 
  •  The State can conduct active monitoring of confirmed cases and their contacts.

We need to consider the plan on a coordinated, regional basis through multi-state co-operation. While state and local governments maintain sovereignty over issues related to their public-health response, coordination based on regions that share cross State boundaries will be crucial. 

  • Divide the country into three zones — green, yellow and red — depending upon exposure risk to the disease. Green Zone, the safest, could be opened up to most of the core economic activity; in the yellow zone, production could start at a small scale; and red zone, or areas significantly impacted by COVID-19, should continue to be in lockdown for some more time.
  • The following variables must be considered while removing the lockdown: population density; risk of infection (infection ratio); economic activities (begin from least developed areas to most developed ones).
  • Governments should identify territories that have been free of cases after 21 days of lockdown, which is the maximum incubation period of COVID-19. If no new cases are spotted in a geographical territory, which could be a group of villages, a city or a district, that territory can be treated as free of COVID-19 and the lockdown can be eased gradually.
  • Active surveillance and disinfection drives have to be continued in the affected areas, during the lockdown, and before the lockdown is eased and if new cases are identified, a rethink on the relaxation should be called for instantly.
  • To prepare communities to accept the concept of external quarantine and for their support, adequate information campaigns must be run. This will ensure willing compliance of people living in identified territories in avoiding travel outside, and in reporting any case of violation of travel restrictions. Information campaigns can be run to encourage people to continue to practice preventive measures of personal hygiene and social distancing to maintain such a sterile status.
  • The widespread availability of COVID-19 testing devices, so those infected could be quickly detected, and suspected could easily determine if they are. Implementing the testing, tracing and treatment pattern strictly in all states.
On individual level, we have a responsibility to wear masks in public and sanitise regularly.
  • Supreme levels of hygiene would need to be maintained for all such exercises. For this, India must assure an adequate supply of masks and other personal protective gear to all risky areas.
  • Lockdown and stay-at-home directives must be stratified depending on local risk assessment. Workplaces, schools and localities are to be opened in phases.
  • Large gatherings, functions, religious congregations, etc. must be avoided until we are certain to have captured all the existing active cases and are being tracked.
  • All inter-state and inter-country passenger travel must be closed (roadways, railways, airways and waterways, etc.) until the virus is contained. Only official travel should be allowed with a strict screening process.
  • To preserve its COVID-19 free status, the localised area should be quarantined, restricting and regulating all movement to and from it outside that region.
  • Technology should be put to use by tracking through smartphone apps and compensating employees for the risk undertaken by offering wage support.
  • A supply chain system that could take the essentials to the house of people quarantined should be brought in place, to minimise their movements as much as possible.
  • The Trade and Industry department should sit down with private-sector associations to agree to a procedure to ensure that employees are screened (or even disinfected) before they enter their workplace, adhere to the social distancing norms at all times. During the initial period, a workplace with more than 50 employees must be avoided. 
  • Once a minimum set of employees return to work and firms resume operations, older employees can continue work from their homes.
  • When the lockdown is partially eased during the initial phase, the sectors shall open on a rotation basis of hours and days and follow the guidelines to avoid mass gatherings.
  • The ₹1,70,000 Crore Financial aid announced by the FM is only 0.9% of the total GDP of India. This budget can be extended during these unusual times to cater to the livelihood of the poor and the most vulnerable section of the society.

The adoption of these measures will require a careful balance. We will need to constantly reevaluate the implementation of these measures based on available surveillance data and we will need to be ready to adjust our approach over time according to the epidemiology of local, national and global spread. 

The Centre has complex operations to plan and coordinate. Its need to work with various States adds to the task’s complexity. But we must leave no scope whatsoever for mishaps. Nor for overzealous use of strictures and surveillance, both of which need to have their expiry dates defined by some public criterion.

People who must endure containment need special care, not the scare of police drones summoning batons. Hotspots must not begin to feel like open-air prisons. India has done well so far in its fight against COVID-19. However, as Prime Minister said, it will indeed be a long fight. We, as citizens should follow and support the government to help them contain the virus soon.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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