Covid-19: What you need to know to­day

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HT SPOTLIGHT - R Suku­mar

The past four weeks have not been kind to In­dia.

Be­tween April 27 and May 24, In­dia saw 78% of its coro­n­avirus dis­ease cases, and 78% of its deaths. Ac­cord­ing to the HT dash­board, the num­ber of cases and deaths were 138,474 and 3,949 re­spec­tively on Sunday night.

In the first of the four weeks, In­dia added 14,540 cases and saw 516 deaths for an av­er­age of 2,077 cases a day and 74 deaths. In the sec­ond, it added 24,558 cases and saw 747 deaths. The per-day av­er­ages were 3,508 and 107.

In the third week, the num­bers were 28,571 and 812, and the av­er­ages 4,082 cases and 116 deaths a day. And in the fourth week, In­dia added 40,480 cases and saw 998 deaths, trans­lat­ing into av­er­ages of 5,783 cases and 143 deaths a day. I’ve pre­vi­ously writ­ten about the lag in re­port­ing both cases and deaths, but the num­bers are in­dica­tive of the gen­eral trend.

Sure, the on­go­ing lock­down (which is ta­per­ing down) has helped re­duce the num­ber of cases; the growth rates of both cases and deaths are nowhere close to what they are in some of the worst-af­fected coun­tries; and the case fa­tal­ity rate, at 2.85%, is well be­low the world’s 6.32% (in In­dia’s case, this num­ber, as well as the re­cov­ery rate, have been im­prov­ing over the weeks, a fact re­peat­edly pointed out in this col­umn); but In­dia should still be wor­ried about the four-week trend.

Ex­perts say (and the data bears out) that In­dia is yet to wit­ness the peak of the Covid-19 pan­demic, but that’s merely re­stat­ing a fact that has been clear for a long time. What’s im­por­tant now is that the coun­try not frit­ter away the gains of the lock­down. The fact that fa­tal­ity rates are de­creas­ing and re­cov­ery rates in­creas­ing is an in­di­ca­tor that we aren’t – at least, not for now — but the chal­lenge is to stay on the tra­jec­tory. In­dia’s con­tain­ment strat­egy seems to have en­sured that the num­ber of cases didn’t show the kind of sharp in­crease it did in coun­tries such as Italy, Spain, and the US, over­whelm­ing the health sys­tems. It flat­tened the curve in that it re­duced what in geom­e­try is re­ferred to as its slope, but didn’t flat­ten it to the ex­tent that the curve started to dip.

Now, the coun­try’s mit­i­ga­tion strat­egy needs to kick in. There are wor­ry­ing signs there, as I wrote in the col­umn yes­ter­day. Hos­pi­tals in Mum­bai (a to­tal of 31,972 cases as of Sunday night, about 22% of In­dia’s to­tal), are strug­gling to cope with the high vol­ume of cases. Delhi would ap­pear to have learnt from Mum­bai’s trou­bles; on Sunday, it ear­marked more beds for Covid-19 pa­tients in pub­lic as well as pri­vate hos­pi­tals in the city. It may not need them — while the num­ber of daily cases in the Capital con­tin­ues to rise (635 on Mon­day), most of the cases are mild, and do not re­quire hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion — but it needs to be pre­pared.

Part of the mit­i­ga­tion will also re­quire state and district ad­min­is­tra­tions to fol­low the In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search’s guide­line on weekly ran­dom test­ing to be car­ried out in ev­ery district in the coun­try. As In­dia opens up, this sys­tem, if fol­lowed, can serve as an early warn­ing sys­tem, red-flag­ging po­ten­tial hotspots.

And part of the mit­i­ga­tion will re­quire the cen­tral gov­ern­ments and state gov­ern­ments to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion — peo­ple over the age of 65. It is sur­pris­ing that travel ad­vi­sories — air and rail ser­vices have both re­sumed — are silent on se­nior cit­i­zens.


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