So far the lockdown has been extended till 3rd May from 14th April when it was initially going to end. While it will continue to cause inconvenience to countless people, lockdown is for the greater good. It is one of the most effective ways to slow down the spread of coronavirus which can save thousands of lives.
In this context, virologists are talking about the need for “flattening the curve”. We have all come across this expression in the news. But what does it signify? How is lockdown helping us in flattening the curve? Read on to understand.
What is meant by ‘flattening the curve’?
A curve is a line that is plotted on a graph. It can help manage, control or monitor a situation. It could be used to understand anything- for example, the increase of population density, the rise of unemployment, the increase of global temperature, etc.
Similarly, the curve can also be used to track the speed at which a virus spreads. That is why experts are using it to gauge the threat level of COVID-19.
A curve is upward moving or northward when many people become infected all at once in a very short span of time. In this context, how many people are infected is not important, rather the time it takes for those people to be infected holds great significance.
Flattening the curve means prolonging the time it takes for the virus to spread. Maybe the same number of people would be infected but more gradually. Instead of thousands being infected in a month, flattening the curve would ensure those same thousands may be infected in maybe 12 months.
Why is flattening the curve so important?
Every country has limited medical resources. No matter how advanced the healthcare system, there is a finite number of-
- Protective gear for healthcare experts
If the curve is northward, a huge segment of the population will be infected by COVID-19 simultaneously. They will all need to be hospitalized simultaneously.
But since we do not have an endless supply of medical essentials, there will be no way to ensure that each sick person gets the treatment he/she needs. The healthcare system will collapse under the burden of the sick.
This is the worst-case scenario and unless the curve is flattened, we are headed towards a healthcare crisis from which we may never recover. The death toll too will spike in such a scenario.
How will flattening the curve help?
By flattening the curve, the spread of COVID-19 will be slowed and the healthcare infrastructure will have time to cope. This will also buy us time to formulate necessary drugs and manufacture or import protective gear and ventilators. So even if thousands continue to fall sick, tackling the challenge will be less difficult.
How to flatten the curve?
Flattening the curve becomes easy with cooperation among individuals as well as by following the instructions of the government.
The measures that we have adopted to prevent the spread of coronavirus also serve as ways to flatten the curve. WHO has urged every individual to follow these instructions to ensure that as few people contract COVID-19 as possible-
- Wash their hands with soap and water regularly.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.
- Wear a mask while going out.
- Don’t use public facilities like gyms or swimming pools.
- Avoid contact with people with fever, cough and sore throat.
Sweeping measures introduced by governments to slow down transmission
Testing people who are likely to have contracted the disease and isolating them is a way to flatten the curve by not allowing them to infect others. But we have limited test kits and this measure is not viable for the long-term.
Similarly, aggressive contact tracing is urgent, but if the number of the infected keeps swelling, it would be impossible to find and quarantine all the people who had come in contact with the infected.
This is where the need for lockdown comes in. Lockdown and its strict enforcement will ensure that people stay in their homes and are not exposed to the virus. It may seem hard to be confined in our homes, but this could save the lives of millions by effectively and quickly flattening the curve.
If we obey the lockdown, together we will be able to flatten the curve. The world is at war with coronavirus and we are all brave soldiers who must follow these instructions so that COVID-19 can be beaten completely and victory shall be ours!