India can add 17 days of additional delay to reaching the peak of novel coronavirus cases, and prevent 72 per cent of projected new cases by closing down its red light areas till a Covid-19 vaccine is developed, scientists have said.
According to the National Aids Control Organization (NACO), India has close to 6,37,500 sex workers, and over 5 lakh customers visit the red-light areas on a daily basis.
Based on modelling studies, the researchers including those from Yale School of Medicine in the US, said closing down these places of sex work may reduce projected Covid-19 death toll increase in India by 63 per cent post the easing of lockdown measures. They said Indians are at a much lower risk of getting Covid-19 if red light areas are kept closed after the lockdown until an effective treatment or vaccine is developed.
They have recommended a continued closure of red-light areas beyond full nation-wide reopening.
They believe this can reduce the number of cases by 72 per cent in a period of 45-days, and delay the peak of Covid-19 cases by 17 days. This delay, according to the researchers, will provide the Government more time and opportunities to plan and execute measures to protect public health and economy, as India moves in Lockdown 4.0. There could be a 63 per cent reduction in the number of deaths in the first 60 days after the lockdown ends, if red-light areas are kept closed, the report said.
Their research said that 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 scientists said the high transmission rate is because social distancing is not possible in sexual interactions. Infected customers could spread the disease to lakhs of other citizens, the scientists warned. Hence they believe that these red light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot.
"Our study findings show that there is a strong effect of the red-light area closures, especially immediately following the lockdown," said study co-author, Jefferey Townsend, Professor of Biostatistics at the Yale School of Medicine.