By Arjavi Indraneesh
Ignorance is for long considered bliss. But not when it comes to vital issues like the spread of a pandemic.
Governments all over the world have been showing great reluctance to let the world know of the real situation, lest it should be construed as failure on their part to effectively deal with Covid-19.
The Modi government, for instance, has been taking great pains to claim that India has managed to contain the spread of the dreaded virus, but the claim is not exactly correct as the conclusions are based on far fewer tests than are necessary. If fewer tests are held, obviously, it will show fewer cases of infection. That may provide a false sense of security, but ultimately endangers the country, the people and the economy.
The latest claim of the government is that less than 1 per cent coronavirus patients are on ventilators, less than 2 per cent cases in ICUs, and less than 3 per cent on oxygen beds. The Union Health Ministry argues that the actual case load of patients is 3.42 lakh, with recovered cases now at 6.35 lakh. But considering that confirmed cases have been doubling every 20 days, experts say that the current total could be anything between 30 and 40 million.
The official caseload is high in absolute numbers, but is relatively low in per capita terms. The world, on average, has three times as many cases as India per capita – a fact pointed out by the government recently. But according to experts, the nper capita caseload is low simply because it tests so little.
In an effort to ramp-up testing across India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked States and UTs to identify and approve all government and private facilitiesfor conducting Rapid Antigen Detection Tests (RADT).
It is stated that infrastructure to fight Covid, with 1,383 dedicated Covid hospitals, 3,107 dedicated Covid healthcare centres, and 10,382 care centres, together have a capacity of 46,673 ICU beds and 21,848 ventilators. The numbers may sound impressive, but the fact is that these are far too short of what is required when the case load shoots up, which is already happening.
The success claim is mainly to justify the untimely lockdown, which has not only failed to contain the spread due to the failure to estimate the impact of the reverse migration of workers from the urban to the rural, but inflicted irreparable damage to the economy. To make matters worse, the response of the government to deal with the economic disaster has been too late and too little to be of any real significance.
There is a general consensus that the lockdown was not the right response. It brought misery to untold numbers of people and destroyed lives. Had there been better planning, the adverse impact could have been minimised. The sacrifice that was the country was called upon to make did not produce commensurate results.
The fact is that India has seen a series of record spikes, adding tens of thousands of cases daily. Most of the spikes occurred within weeks of the lockdown being lifted, with people throwing caution to the wind and getting back to their old ways. Social distancing became a fancy slogan that has had no relevance on the ground.
Globally, India’s recovery curve appears steeper than other badly hit countries – in this instance, a steeper curve is a good thing. It means Covid-19 patients in India are recovering faster than those in the US or Brazil. But this is more due to the fact that India has a much younger population, which is more resistant to the virus. Most of the deaths have occurred for patients with comorbidities and diseases associated with old age.
Lots of questions have been raised about India’s Covid-19 death figures, and most experts agree that they are likely being underreported.
Given the rate at which the infection is spreading, it may be a matter of time before India catches up with the US, which has the worst record so far in dealing with coronavirus, which President Trump once described as a joke and later as the Chinese virus. (IPA Service)