Saturday, January 23, 2021
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COVID 19 in India- Be Careful, not fearful

Ashok Bhan

In the midst of a worldwide alarm caused by the high infection rate and mortality by the pandemic, a brochure titled “COVID 19- Be careful, not fearful” issued by the New Delhi based AIIMS is very reassuring and conveys a clear and strong message. There is no substitute to taking precautions for own safety but there is no cause to be fearful. We must not, therefore, panic because COVID 19 may not be the same venomous monster in every part of the globe.

The virulence of COVID 19 in different geographical regions and its impact on different societies has varied. Therefore, predictions based on mathematical models and trajectories of infections and deaths in one part of the world do not necessarily hold good everywhere. For predicting the impact of COVID 19 in India it is necessary to factor in its younger population; lesser life style related susceptibilities restricted to a small population in metros and big cities; immunity, weather, latitude, mutations in the virus etc. So far, all these factors seem to be going India’s way.

The country-wide lockdown, despite its serious repercussions on the economy, was inevitable. It has indeed provided us the much needed head start to bring the situation under control. Lockdown has slowed the spread of the infection. It provided time to increase the medicare infrastructure countrywide. It has prevented a sudden spike in cases that would have overwhelmed our fragile healthcare infra causing panic and helplessness. It has also provided a window for a massive safety awareness drive to prevent infections.

We did falter seriously in not factoring in the migration of workers who were left in the lurch to save their lives after their livelihoods had been snatched. Lockdown could have been better timed in consultation with States, allowing and facilitating migrant workers to travel back to their homes in safety and without hassles. The heart rending sights of hordes of men, women and little children walking long distances in hot sun should haunt our collective conscience for neglecting these voiceless citizens. Curiously, these migrating workers, ill equipped to follow social distancing norms or take precautions, have neither been identified as carriers nor found responsible for creating any hotspots at their destinations. The rural India, largely bereft of healthcare infra, has also not reported any major hotspot. Lockdown did slow the spread but could not have locked the virus. These developments give credence to the suggestion of reduced virulence of COVID 19 in Indian conditions or a better immune system that has disallowed serious manifestations of the infections or both? There can be many more reasons in complex biological processes but that should not worry us too much at this stage.

This argument is empirically supported by a much lower number of COVID positive cases detected per 100 tests in India as compared to rest of the world. As on May 11, the number of COVID 19 positive cases detected in India stood at 67,724 from a tested population of 1.67 million. The percentage of those testing positive in India thus stands at 4.0 of tested cases as against 14.5 in USA, 12.0 in UK, 10.7 in Spain and 8.5 in Italy. India is placed better on this parameter than even Japan (7.3) where there have been fewer cases and mortalities. This brings to India a big advantage in fight against COVID 19.

There is no need to unduly panic at the current spike of cases. With 1 lakh tests we should expect 4000 new cases per day (at 4 percent) till we inch towards herd immunity in urban centers. The COVID 19 graph for India will start flattening only when number of new cases is less than cured cases in a day. India must also not read too much in the percentage of recovered cases which stand currently at 31 percent. With 5-7 percent mortality the world over, we have to ultimately reach recovery of 93-95 percent. It is a matter of time.

So far, in India 1.67 million COVID 19 tests have been carried out as against 9.44 Million in USA. At current capacity it will take 3-4 months to cover a mere one percent of the population mostly in Metros and large urban conglomerates with access to healthcare facilities. Let there be no illusion that our testing capacity and health infrastructure can match the size of our population. COVID 19 will meanwhile spread through the length and breadth of the country. The immune system of the populace and virulence of COVID 19 will come into play. There will be infections, mild or severe, curing without hospitalization and occasional mortality of the aged or those with health pre-conditions. We have to take these damages in our stride with sensitivity, compassion and preparedness by hugely empowering the district administration throughout the country. District administration should now play a pivotal role with State and Union Governments defining a broad outline for the lockdown exit.

There is no specific medication for COVID 19 till a vaccine becomes available expectedly in 12-18 months. Lockdown has achieved its objective and can’t continue endlessly. Ultimately every country has to move towards herd immunity irrespective of the model adopted to deal with the pandemic. Meanwhile, we have to be alert, to be careful, make protection against COVID 19 a way of life, and protect the aged or those with medical conditions, who are known to be more vulnerable to infection and mortality. India has done well so far in its war against COVID 19. There is no reason to be fearful nor must we lower our guards.

(Author is a Former Director General of Police and former Member, National Security Advisory Board)

(Disclaimer: The views, observations and opinions expressed in above write up of Scoop News are strictly author's own. Scoop News does not take any onus or liability for the veracity, accuracy, validity, completeness, suitability of any of information in the above given write up. The information, facts or figures appearing in the write up in no way manifest the position, standpoint or stance of Scoop News and the Scoop News does not assume any encumbrance or answerability of the same. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent Courts and Forums in Jammu City Only)

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