Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee has recommended that a system of “reporting” or information be set up at the local level to pre-empt the spread of COVID-19 in West Bengal and that more widespread testing be carried out across the State.
“If in a particular locality it is found that a number of people are coughing a lot, then there should be a system by which that information is immediately reported so that tests can be carried out in that area. If necessary let a hotline be established for it. This way the virus will not be given a chance to spread to other localities. If a reporting structure is set up it will be good,” said Abhijit Banerjee in a video conference on April 7 with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from his residence in the United States.
He pointed out that in many cases such reports may not yield coronavirus cases at all, but he believes such a system must be put in place as a pre-emptive measure. “If the outbreak takes place in a number of areas simultaneously, it will be very difficult to handle,” he said.
He urged the people of the State to not be afraid. “Many are scared to admit that they may have contracted COVID-19, and so they deny having the symptoms. They should be made to lose this fear,” he said.
Apart from wearing masks and maintaining social distance, Abhijit Banerjee also recommended that the State government set up provision for cleaning hands at the entry and exit points of markets. “Before entering a supermarket if one uses a hand sanitiser at the entry point and again at the time of exit, it will yield good results in combating the spread of the virus,” he said. In the case of local markets, where most people of Bengal do their shopping, he suggested that soap and water be made available at the entry and exit points. “These are small things that do not require modern technology, but they go a long way to prevent the spread of the disease,” he said.
Responding to his suggestions, Mamata Banerjee said that her government would implement his recommendations and would come up with a mobile app to deal with the crisis. Mamata also said that the State government had identified seven regions in Bengal where COVID-19 had spread; however she refused to name them. As of April 7, the official figure of the number of COVID-19 deaths in the State increased to five from three, and the number of “active” coronavirus cases stood at 69.