NEW DELHI: India can reduce chances of Covid-19 cases by 72 percent if red light areas continue to remain closed, says a study by academicians from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. There are 6,37,500 sex workers in India and over 5 lakh customers visit the red-light areas on a daily basis, according to the study. If the red-light areas start operating again, the disease will spread extremely quickly and infect a very high percentage of sex workers and customers, it said, adding that the infected customers could transmit the disease to lakhs of other citizens.
The researchers assessed the impact of closure of red-light areas on Covid-19 transmission in five cities — Mumbai, Nagpur, Delhi, Kolkata and Pune — for the study. All these cities are currently in the red-zone and account for some of the largest redlight areas in the country. The study says the red light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot, which, in turn, could cause the infection to spread among a large population. To prevent this, the study recommends keeping red light areas closed indefinitely. The findings have been shared with the Centre and the states along with a recommendation not to allow opening of red-light areas post-lockdown as it can reduce the possibility of cases by 72 per cent in a period of 45 days and delay the peak of Covid cases by 17 days.
The delay in the peak will provide the government more time and opportunities to plan and execute measures to protect public health and economy. The study also states that there could be a 63% reduction in the number of deaths in the first 60 days after the lockdown ends, if the red-light areas are kept closed. As per the study, if the red-light areas are kept closed, there could be delay in the peak of 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 possibility of cases by 21% in Mumbai, 27% in Pune, 31% in New Delhi, 56% in Nagpur, and 66% in Kolkata in a 45-day period.
Commenting on the report, coauthor, Dr Jefferey Townsend, Professor of Biostatistics, Yale School of Medicine said, “At the release of lockdown, there is a very high potential for the hike in cases, and hence, a modulated approach is warranted. The actual scenario will depend on behavior of individuals and our model does not predict how individuals will behave. Purpose of our modelling exercises in not to predict what will happen in the future, but to understand the effect of the intervention on the future. Our study findings show that there is a strong effect of the redlight area closures, especially immediately following lockdown.”
What other countries have done for red light areas
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 coronavirus. According to the study the red light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot and hence it is said India should also follow this.