'Close red-light areas, prevent 72% COVID-19 cases'

Close red-light areas, prevent 72% COVID-19 cases: Yale, Harvard study

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India can avoid 72% of COVID-19 cases and 63% of COVID-19 deaths after lockdown by closing red-light areas of major cities, according to a new report by academicians from two of the world’s top medical schools.

Such a step could also delay the peak of the epidemic by another 17 days.

With India beginning to ease the lockdown, redlight areas, where commercial sex workers reside and work, could emerge as hotspots due to a combination of factors.

Carried out by the researchers at Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, the study shows if the red-light areas start operating, the disease will spread extremely quickly and infect a very high percentage of sex workers and customers.

The high transmission rate is due to the fact that social distancing is not possible in this business. Japan experienced a similar problem.

According to National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) estimates, there are close to 6,37,500 sex workers in India and nearly five lakh customers visit red-light areas on a daily basis.

The yet-to-be-peer reviewed study looks at the problems at red-light areas in five Indian cities four of which are in the COVID-19 red-zone and account for some of the largest red-light areas in the country with a large numbers of sex workers.

According to the study, if red-light areas remain closed even after lifting of the 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 the cases by 21% in Mumbai, 27% in Pune, 31% in New Delhi, 56% in Nagpur, and 66% in Kolkata in a 45-day period. For the country, the figure stands at 72%

“We shared the findings with five state governments as well as Karnataka,” Sudhakar Nuti, co-author of the report from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School told DH.