Domain experts explain the challenges of social distancing and feasibility

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to health experts, all have cautioned that social distancing could be here to stay.

Published: 14th April 2020 08:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th April 2020 08:17 AM   |  A+A-

Beneficiaries standing in front of the ration shop for getting their free ration, by adhering to social distancing norms, at Nanthankode in Thiruvananthapuram. (File Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to health experts, all have cautioned that social distancing could be here to stay. Sana Shakil and Ritwika Mitra talked to stakeholders and domain experts to find out how this is possible in sectors and workplaces where crowding is the norm

Informal settlements

What are the measures that can be taken in slum clusters, resettlement colonies and other high-density areas to implement physical distancing?

Shivani Chaudhry 

Housing and Land Rights Network 
Adequate sanitation facilities must be ensured and community toilets made free. The government should develop emergency plans in consultation with community leaders to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, including the elderly, children, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those living with chronic ailments and mental illness. Healthcare services should be provided through mobile health vans.

Mukesh Mehta 

Architect and urban planner 
It is virtually impossible to ensure social distancing in slums and unauthorised colonies. The government needs to create local leaders who can regulate the use of community toilets and portable water supply, buying of vegetables, to ensure there are no dense queues.
Public Transport 

Should trains, buses and metro services be opened in phases? 
What percentage reduction in occupancy is recommended for public transport?

Laghu Parashar

Secretary, Institute of Urban Transport
Buses, trains and metros should only run with one-third occupancy. It will be simpler to control crowd travelling through metro because of access control. Public transport will have to be opened in phases. Use of technology is recommended to generate time slots for managing the crowd. For instance in Beijing, people use an app to reserve a time slot for using public transport.

PK Sarkar 

School of Planning and Architecture 
In the first phase, only smaller vehicles should be allowed to operate. Alongside private cars, two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws, cabs should be allowed in the initial phase. Metro stations need to be sanitised and the mass transports need to be closely monitored.
Aviation sector
What measures do you prescribe for maintaining social distancing at airports and 
inside aircraft?
Hemendra Singh

Central Industrial Security Force 
We have proposed that flyers should carry masks, gloves and sanitisers. Passengers with fever should not be allowed at airports. There should be a vacant seat between two passengers. CISF has also proposed that the Defence Research and Development Organisation be requested to develop “sanitising tunnels” which can be placed at the airport’s entry points. Flight schedules should be staggered to keep the number of visitors at the airport to a minimum. There should be a separate queue for ailing passengers and they should be screened by CISF personnel in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Ronojoy Dutta

CEO, IndiGo airlines 
The new set of procedures have not been finalized yet but IndiGo will deep clean its aircraft more frequently, stop in-flight meal service for a brief period and will run coaches at a maximum load of 50 per cent capacity. 

Labour intensive industry
How will businesses re-model themselves post the lockdown?  

Deepak Sood

ASSOCHAM secretary general 
The way businesses are conducted across the globe will change. Industries which are reliant on machinery will have to stagger it out. There will be systemic change as the business will need to remodel themselves completely.

Ravi Srivastava

Former JNU professor
Now, employers have to focus on greater equity and access to public healthcare services for its workers. India will face immense challenges because of the way the production process is structured in formal and informal economies. 

Open markets
What are the measures that can be taken in market areas/restaurants to ensure there is no overcrowding?

Sanjiv Mehra

President, Khan Market Traders’ Association 
It is wrong to assume that people will flock to the markets once the lockdown is lifted. Everyone will want to hold on to money and spend only on necessities. We are planning to put up two sanitising tunnels on two sides of the market. People coming into the market will need to pass through them. The market association will also put up hoardings raising awareness on distancing.

Sanjay Bhargava

Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal 
We are certain the government will come up with a set of guidelines. Physical distancing will be a major challenge in markets such as Chandni Chowk. But, we will seek police cooperation on putting up metal detectors and barricades to limit the number of people entering the market.

Can all courts, especially trial courts in smaller cities and towns, function through video conferencing? If not video conferencing, what other measures can be taken?

Justice SN Dhingra

Former judge of the Delhi High Court
Social distancing can be achieved by designating time for hearings and sticking to that allotted time. Masks and gloves should be mandatory. Videoconferencing would not be a practical solution for trial courts. 

Manan Kumar Mishra

President, Bar Council of India 
Hearing cases through video-conferencing in all courts is simply not possible, especially at such short notice. Not more than 10 per cent of lawyers have access to computers. The situation of litigants is worse. The only way out is regulating the entry of people in courts.
Should the opening of malls be delayed post-shutdown? Should there be a cap on the number of people entering malls?

Sudeshna Chatterjee

Architect and urban planner 
Even if malls are allowed to open, only shops selling essential items such as groceries and medicines should be allowed. If they open up, they should be allowed to run at only 20-25 per cent of their capacity.

Mukesh Mehta

Architect and urban planner 
In malls, theatres and restaurants, social distancing can be practised but unfortunately air conditioning is not conducive for social distancing. These establishments should put up signboards specifying the number of visitors allowed at a time according to the social distancing norms.


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