Beyond Optics: Are Night Curfews or ‘Corona Curfews’ Effective?

“Night and weekend curfews are of little help and more for optics,” say experts.

2 min read
“Night and weekend curfews are of little help and more for optics,” say experts.

On Thursday, 8 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a meeting of chief ministers to discuss the rising coronavirus cases and called on states to enforce night curfews but renamed them ‘COVID curfews'.

“I urge states that are enforcing night curfew to popularise it as COVID curfew so that people remain aware about coronavirus.”
PM Modi as reported by The Times of India

He added that, “Corona curfew is helping (governments) educate people and making them aware of the coronavirus.”

Are Night Curfews Effective?

FIT speaks to the experts to find out. Dr Shahid Jameel, virologist and director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, told us in an earlier interview that since vaccinations – even if they would be opened up to all ages – take time, some form of lockdowns were inevitable.

He explained that lockdowns have an immediate effect; so, they can help curb this wave.

“Limited lockdowns are inevitable, although night and weekend curfews are of little help and more for optics.”
Dr Shahid Jameel, virologist

Dr Anant Bhan, Adjunct Professor & Researcher in Bioethics at Mangaluru’s Yenepoya University, agreed on the need for a “scientific, nuanced” approach to lockdowns, and that night curfews were of little effect.

He added that night curfews could, in fact, worsen the COVID-19 situation, as it may lead to overcrowding during the day as people scramble to finish their tasks. Only with other restrictions, like closing non-essential shops, working from home when possible, restricting capacity or closing restaurants, malls, and theatres can we enforce social distancing and reduce the transmission.

However, in his address, PM Modi stressed the importance of renaming night curfews 'COVID curfew' mainly to raise awareness of COVID – but did not speak of its effectiveness in dealing with the rising cases.

He added, “There is an intellectual debate that goes on like...does corona come in night? The truth is that the world has accepted this experiment of night curfew. It is so because the curfew time reminds everyone that they are living in the era of coronavirus.”

Public health experts suggest we need a combination of COVID protocol (masking, distancing and hand-washing), vaccination and restrictions to combat the pandemic.

Dr Jameel adds that, “We can do a lockdown in certain areas of affected cities,” while Dr Bhan says that since we know the problems from last time, “we can plan better for other healthcare services to continue, the elderly to be protected” and daily wagers to stay afloat.

(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)

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