oppn parties Covid-19: Complacency Would Be Dangerous

News Snippets

  • University vice-chancellors in West Bengal decide not to hold final-year examinations despite UGC prod, will instead go by the state government advised 80-20 formula where 80% will be marked on performance in past semesters and 20% on internal assessments in the final semester
  • The Centre wants the ITI and other top Indian firms to bid for 5G as Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE are not likely to be allowed to participate
  • India and China agree on total disengagement to return to peace ahead of the next round of military talks
  • The Supreme Court allows delivery of summons and notices via WhatsApp and email, but questions remain on proof of actual receipt
  • National Investigation Agency says the proceeds from the Kerala gold smuggling case could have been used for terrorist activities
  • Four Maoists shot dead in Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar
  • Despite localized lockdown, Covid cases continue to rise at an alarming rate in West Bengal. Newer areas brought under containment zones in Kolkata
  • ICSE, ISC results declared, Average scores in the English paper, 20% lower this year than the average in most years, pulls down the aggregate for most candidates
  • IIP contracts by 35% in May. Manufacturing goes down by 39.3%
  • Row erupts over CBSE's decision to reduce the syllabus by 30% this academic year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. Experts say several lessons that the ruling dispensation does not like are being removed
  • Gangster Vikas Dubey's nephew killed in an encounter by UP police who also pick up his key aide Raju Khullar and his son Adarsh
  • MHA sets up an inter-ministerial committee to probe the alleged financial misdeeds of three trusts linked to the Gandhi family
  • Actor Jagdeep, most famous for his Soorma Bhopali act in Sholay, passes away
  • Pakistan says Kulbhushan Jadhav has declined to file a review petition and will stick to his mercy plea. India calls it a farce
  • India to keep a strict vigil to confirm that the Chinese are abiding by the deal on the pullback at the LAC
The plot thickens in Rajasthan. Sachin Pilot removed as deputy chief minister and PCC chief. His loyalists dropped as ministers.
oppn parties
Covid-19: Complacency Would Be Dangerous

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-03-17 17:21:34

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.

India would seem to have done well to have so few reported cases of Covid-19 (the operative word here is "reported" for in our country of 1.3 billion people, we do not know many are actually infected and how many more they are infecting on a daily basis as not enough testing is being done). The government would pat itself on the back and say that it took the right decisions at the right time to mitigate what could have been a monstrous disaster. But it would be a false and dangerous sense of complacency to think in that manner. We are a densely populated country surrounded by other densely populated nations and the international borders are porous. Although we have screened people who have entered India from official entry points and have kept tabs on infected persons or those who came into their contact, have we done enough testing to get the real figures? Cardio surgeon Devi Shetty, writing in The Times of India, has said that "Covid-19 is the most transmissible disease we have ever encountered" and that "every coronavirus patient infects three other people and they are contagious for two weeks". He adds that "the exponential spread of coronavirus in India will hit like a bomb because of the density of population".

It would seem that we are doing all the right things by checking the entry of the virus at entry points, keeping those infected or suspected in quarantine and closing down places like schools, colleges, malls, theatres and halls and encouraging social distancing by banning rallies, assembly of more than 50 people (or even four in places where Section 144 of the IPC has been invoked), encouraging work from home and restricting entry of visitors and people who are not required to be present at places like courts and government offices, it will not work if we do not conduct enough tests. Until now, India has tested just about 10000 samples. It has just 52 testing and 56 collection centres. Although testing is free for the public, the paucity of centres and kits make it difficult to test people with similar symptoms randomly.

The importance of random tests cannot be underplayed simply because it has been proven that asymptomatic persons have infected more people than those who actually showed Covid-19 symptoms and tested positive. The situation now across the country is such that we do not know who is infected or who is a carrier because the infection does not always show outward symptoms. We need to have more centres and more kits. The government has allowed 60 NABL-accredited private laboratories to join in the testing. It has also reportedly placed orders for 10 lakh testing kits. But the costs are prohibitive. While the government is now funding the cost at public testing centres, it is not clear who will bear the cost in case of private centres. Also, there are not enough protective gear for the medical teams who are most susceptible to being infected. Ideally, there should be a fully operational testing centre in each district of the country. The tests should be free for the patient at even the private centres. It is upon the government to see how it funds the operation as it is too much to expect the ordinary person to pay Rs 10000 (that is a rough estimate of how much the test could cost at private centres) for the test. But one thing is certain: if India does not speed up testing to know the actual number of cases and takes subsequent steps to mitigate the disease, there is a likelihood that it will not be able to prevent community transmission of the disease and then things will go out of control.