Is India prepared to fight Coronavirus?

India has been doing far less testing than required

With extremely low testing, we do not have a true understanding of the size of monster we are fighting.

Coronavirus COVID-19 - With extremely low testing, we do not have a true understanding of the size of monster we are fighting

I have always wondered India’s ability to fight coronavirus. You may call me a pessimist, but to date I have been right. Our honourable PM makes an appearance on the TV to speak to all of us about the epidemic Coronavirus. And the best thing he could come up with is to follow something that people started doing across infected countries.

Updated article available here: 18 days of lockdown report: India fighting COVID19

Yes, I am talking about clapping and appreciating the warriors at the front of the war against Coronavirus and the curfew. Sure, it is a great sign of homage and salute. It is a small action in fighting coronavirus.

Many of the medical community came together to urge the government and people at large – they are okay if they don’t stand at their balconies at 5:00 pm on Sunday.  They want you do to something else. And they do have a strong point to make.

The make-believe WhatsApp University

In a world where many are praising the government for taking all the right steps in advance, this may not sound right, does it? The slew of WhatsApp forwards are absolutely unbelievable, some downright stupid.

From NASA claiming that Coronavirus has left India after millions clapped at 5:00 pm in India, Chanting “OM” helping create positive energy that virus cannot stand to gow-mutra (Cow’s urine) can cure Coronavirus. It is absolute disaster when people actually believe it. It is fake news all over again.

I saw multitude of people who perhaps may be supporters of PM Modi appreciate the move. A trend, like everything else he does, carries in our country. Is it an eye-wash?

Untameable educated fools

It is a well know fact that most people who can afford to travel out of India are well educated or rich, or both. We have had many instances, including foreigners, where people who were supposed to be in home quarantine freely roamed around in the country.

They flew in aeroplanes, traveled in trains and cabs after they arrived back in India. A Kalyan resident even attended a wedding! I for one, felt they should be punished for putting so many lives at risk of getting infected with Coronavirus. And weakening the stand of India in this fight against coronavirus.

The Janta Curfew

In perhaps a bizarre announcement, the curfew of 14 hours on 22nd March is in a way a half bake approach. Many people started sharing on social media site as another masterstroke of the Modi government in fight against coronavirus. They spread the fake news that Coronavirus will die in 12 hours outside of a body.

No one in the world for sure knows how long Coronavirus is alive outside. Best estimate we have is 36 hours – something that is not even conclusive yet.


However, what the curfew did is exactly opposite in certain pockets of the country. Just look at this tweet for example, people came together, doing garba (folk dance of Gujarat) after clapping and clinging vessels. They came on to streets to fight coronavirus and celebrate it’s death. Stupidity.

More importantly, I just loved the comment – that a simple message did not get delivered by the great ‘orator’ in 29 minutes of the speech.

I really do not know what to make of the planning behind it. Janta Curfew plus clapping is perhaps the only two actions PM called out loud. And even that is just too little, too late in our fight against the coronavirus. What the medical fraternity needs is greater support & equipment from the government than an appreciation. The real battle has just started.

How many do we test for Coronavirus today?

Today we are testing very limited number of people. A strategy called “symptomatic testing”. So far, India has conducted 12,000 test. This is far less than people flying into India between Jan 15 and March 15 in the fight against coronavirus.

South Korea, a smaller country in size and population than India, has conducted 2.5 Lakh tests. That is ~4000 tests per million. India, has done only 5-10 per million.

Female doctor taking a throat culture
Female pediatrician using a swab to take a sample from a patient’s throat

India is only testing people who have traveled to a country that has widespread infections. Or have got in contact with any one who has traveled from such a country. Even in this shortlist, the testing is prioritised for those who show Coronavirus symptoms. Dry Cough, Fever, and Shortness of breath.

It is indeed sad that because as we are testing less, we do not have any information if we have more people infected. The true number eludes us. The exact mistake Italy and US did in the early stages of Coronavirus, but South Korea did not.

Making hay when the Coronavirus shines

Many of the medical community came together to urge the government and people at large – they are okay if they don’t stand at their balconies at 5:00 pm on Sunday. But to compel the government to arrange for these necessary arrangements.

In a very unfortunate development, an investigation by news website Scroll.in has revealed there are irregularities in government‘s plan. As has been anticipated by the medical community, they will soon run out of their supplies and stocks of essentials. These include sanitisers, masks, eye-wear, hazmat coverall suites (PPE), etc. And then, the government favours some manufacturers a bit more than others.

Pic: Businessman receiving bribe or money bonus from partner client boss at work, bribery in business, corruption or employee reward concept, close up view of hands with envelope.
It is not a surprise that something amiss is happening when India is looking for fight coronavirus

In a way, it was expected. We in India know well that corruption, irregularities and malpractices run deep in the country. In a month and half since the first case was reported, the government yet did not place an order for additional PPEs.

What’s worst? The manufacturers do not know what standards they need to comply to when they manufacture. Yet. They have followed up with the ministry a couple of times, and have not received a response.

Are we already on Coronavirus Stage 3?

In a nutshell, yes.

There is no clear announcement from the government if we are there yet. But a slew of measures announced are in direct correlation with how they are now preparing for eventuality.

The strain of Novel Corona virus is also known as COVID19 but the final naming designation is SARS-2
The strain of Novel Coronavirus is also known as COVID-19 but the final naming designation is SARS CoV-2

The blockage of entire cities, janta curfew etc. are steps taken suggesting that government knows something they are not telling us. Of course, they do not want people to panic. A panic situation is not politically good for them, and they would want to hide their ill preparedness as well. And it is bad for the business in an already battered down economy.

Coronavirus spreading is defined in various stages. Let’s understand what are the stages.

Stage 1:

Getting infected by Coronavirus. Traveling mostly from China or other countries where it is widespread.

Stage 2:

Spreading in small numbers when coming in contact with someone who has traveled from such countries and may carry the infection. Also called, Local Transmission.

Stage 3:

When it starts spreading across a larger group of people. The multiplier effect can be four times of the previous detected number or more, also called Community Transmission. 

Stage 4:

The numbers increase very heavily and the spread is very fast. This stage sees a very heavy increase in count of dead from Coronavirus as well. Starts breaking the back of the Medical and Hospital infrastructure, overall health system and people managing it.

Stage 5:

Health system collapses. More people die due to non-coronavirus related diseases/illnesses as health system is unable to sustain itself.

What’s next?

The next 7 days are absolutely crucial in the fight against virus. It is important for India to get it’s act together and start preparing for the worst. It is best to stay put in comforts of your home unless you are an essential part of this City’s health infrastructure.

#Salute to those who are helping fight this endemic.

 

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