Closure of red light areas post-lockdown could help India stem further rise in COVID-19 cases: Study

Closure of red light areas post-lockdown could help India stem further rise in COVID-19 cases: Study

Pune: Keeping it's red-light areas closed even after lockdown is lifted can help India reduce spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) by 72 per cent in a period of 45 days and delay the peak of COVID-19 by 17 days, a study revealed.

In Pune, the peak of can be pushed by 29 days and positive cases reduced by 27 %. It could also result in bringing down the number of deaths in Pune -- currently a hotspot in the country with more than 3,000 positive cases -- by 43%.

As per researchers from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, this can be achieved by keeping the red light areas of the country closed.

HIGH PROFILE RESEARCH
The study ‘Modelling the Effect of Continued Closure of Red-Light Areas on COVID-19 Transmission in India’ has been co-authored by Jeffery Townsend, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, Alison Galvani, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Modelling and Analysis, Yale University, and Dr Sudhakar Nuti, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The study finds that Indians are at a much lower risk of getting COVID-19 if red light areas are kept closed after the lockdown, until an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.

AFFECTED STATES
The study has been created to support the central government and specifically Indian states that have the largest number of sex workers namely Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, West Bengal, New Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala, which are some of the most affected states in India due to COVID-19.

The findings of the research state that there could be a 63 percent reduction in the number of deaths in the first 60 days after the lockdown ends, if red-light areas are kept closed.

The study shows that if the red-light areas start operating, the disease will spread extremely quickly and infect a very high percentage of people.

SOCIAL DISTANCING IMPOSSIBLE
Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Sudhakar Nuti said that the high transmission rate is because social distancing is not possible during the sex act.

"The infected customers could spread the disease to lakhs of other citizens. Therefore, these red light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot. The report highlights the impact of red-light areas across India and in five Indian cities which are currently in the red-zone and account for some of the largest red-light areas in the country with large numbers of sex workers," said Dr Nuti.

FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
As per the study, if red-light areas are kept closed following the lifting of lockdown, there can be a delay in the peak of COVID-19 cases by up to 12 days in Mumbai, 17 days in New Delhi, 29 days in Pune, 30 days in Nagpur, and 36 days in Kolkata.

Further, it can reduce COVID-19 cases by 21% in Mumbai, 27% in Pune, 31% in New Delhi, 56% in Nagpur, and 66% in Kolkata in a 45-day period.

The report shows that closure of red-light areas can significantly reduce deaths by 63% in India, 28% in Mumbai, 38% in New Delhi, 43% in Pune, 61% in Nagpur and 66% in Kolkata in the first 60 days.

"These numbers are based on the prevalent reproduction number (R0) of 2.0. The numbers could vary depending on the Reproduction number (R0), which is constantly changing with time in different locations," added Dr Nuti.

Commenting on the report, co-author, Dr Jefferey Townsend, Professor of Biostatistics, Yale School of Medicine said that at the release of lockdown, there is a very high potential for the increase in the cases, and hence, a modulated approach is warranted.

THE RED LIGHT AREA CONNECTION
"Our study findings show that there is a strong effect of the red-light area closures, especially immediately following the lockdown. Other countries have also implemented similar interventions. In Australia, brothels and strip clubs are the only businesses that are delineated as indefinitely closed in the country’s reopening plan. Germany and the Netherlands have also closed their brothels to protect citizens from COVID-19. Japan did not close down red light areas in-time and saw an 'explosion' in cases because of a red light area that left local hospitals overwhelmed," said Dr Nuti.

The researchers suggest that this intervention can help the government to address the health, safety, and well-being of sex workers in redlight areas.

IMPACT OF KEEPING REDLIGHT AREAS CLOSED

Cities Additional delay in peak Estimated reduction Estimated reduction in deaths
India 17 72 % 63 %
New Delhi 17 31 % 38 %
Mumbai 12 21 % 28 %
Pune 29 27 % 43 %
Nagpur 30 56 % 61 %
Kolkata 36 66 % 66 %

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