Why the next 30 days are extremely important for India?
Amid the coronavirus outbreak in India, the Government has banned public gatherings throughout the country. This includes parties, private and public rallies, religious functions and even weddings in some states. To carry this out malls, pubs, clubs, theatres and even educational institutes in some states are completely shut down. Top events like the India-South Africa ODI were canceled and the upcoming IPL is also said to have been postponed. The government has even canceled all the Indian visas.
Approximately 260 cases have been registered in India, out of which 6 has already died. Whereas, around 4 lakhs people die out of TB every year. So does this mean that the Government is just over-reacting to this coronavirus issue? Or, is it preparing itself for the next 30 days? Or, the Government is just panic-stricken?
Let’s start analyzing with Italy’s COVID-19 growth rate chart. (Italy chart)
On 22 February 2020 Italy had registered only 9 cases whereas on 11th March there were 10 thousand cases registered. Hence it was mandated to flatten the curve.
Flattening the curve?
The fatality rate of COVID-19 is not as high as other diseases( eg: Ebola or MARS). The challenge lies not in the fatality rate but in it’s spreading rate. COVID-19 may not be as fatal but it spreads faster than other diseases like the common cold. Every virus has it’s own basic reproduction number(R0) which is defined as the number of persons getting infected from one infected person. According to initial reports, the R0 of COVID-19 is 2.7 which is much higher than diseases like a common cold. This implies that one infected person can spread its virus to 2.7 more people.
This picture shows the growth of COVID-19 in some specific countries.
It is also prominent here that the growth rate in these countries is exponential. And it is because of this exponential growth graph that the medical experts are seeking for immediate actions. The main motive of such action is to flatten the curve. It implies that if 1,00,000 people are getting infected by COVID-19 then they should get infected over a year and not a month so that the medical systems do not overload.
ITALY case study
Most of the patients (81 %) will have a mild version of the disease and there is nothing to fear about. But the severe (14%) and critical (5%) will require specific conditions and pieces of equipment to deal with the problem. So if 5-10 people reach the hospitals seeking medical care then there hardly lies a chance of the medical systems getting overloaded. But if thousands of people reach out to the hospitals seeking medical care, then the medical systems will not be able to cope up. The same did happen to Italy which reported the most number of cases after China. A study states,
More than 80% of the region’s 1,123 acute-care beds are dedicated to coronavirus, after many other patients have been moved elsewhere and 223 extra places have been opened to cope with the emergency. About half of these are occupied
Another report quoted a doctor as mentioning the severity of the situation in Italy,
Physicians such as gastroenterologists, who normally focus on the digestive system, have been conscripted to help out with lung patients, and they’re still not enough.
The scarcity of medical equipments in Italy has forced the doctors to take severe steps. The medical authority has to choose whether they can admit a particular patient or not. Only those patients who have a higher rate of recovery are admitted in the intensive care units in Italy. The rest have to recover by their one or die. This means that those people who are aged or are already having a medical condition have no option but to be left to die.
Why the next 30 days are extremely important for India?
This crisis does not only affect the COVID-19 patients but others too. In China, many hospitals do not have enough drugs to treat HIV patients because all are being used to treat COVID-19 patients. The treatment f many cancer patients are delayed. And it is because of this reason that Italy is under lockdown for a few weeks now. All businesses are ordered to shut down except groceries and pharmacies just to slow down the rate of spread of this disease.
Countries like Singapore have banned the entry of people from some selected nations. US has declared a national emergency in the nation and has banned all flights from Europe to slower down the spread-rate of COVID-19 disease. And hence, it is high time that India reacts immediately because the medical infrastructure here in India is relatively poor especially if we stop considering the metropolitan cities.
According to a research study, India has 2.3 beds per 1 lakh people. Whereas, Italy has 12.5 critical hospital beds per 1 lakh people. This sums to 6 times to that of India. So if India reaches a position where Italy is at present, India will have no option but to leave the patients to die thereby increasing the fatality rate of COVID-19 in India.
According to studies, China had around 114,325 cases by the end of February 2020 and this could have increased about 67% if China had not taken immediate steps such as isolation, travel ban among others. Researchers also claim that these cases could have reduced to 66% given the Chinese Government had taken these steps a week earlier. These could have further reduced the cases by 95% had the Government takes these steps 3 weeks earlier.
Why is coronavirus a pandemic case?
Every pandemic disease has 4 stages.
Stage 1: Confirmed cases come from other countries.
Stage 2: Local transmission start taking place
Stage 3: Large communities start getting infected due to local transmission.
Stage 4: The disease seems to be never-ending.
Italy and Korea are at present at the fourth stage while India is at stage 3. Experts say that India has only the next 30 days to prevent going from stage 3 to stage 4. And this is why the next 30 days are extremely important for India right now. Early action is what the country needs right now. Testing, Contact Tracing and Quarantine are the steps that should be immediately brought into action.
And the Government has already started taking these steps. Schools, colleges are shut down and many industries have instructed their employees to work from their homes. Quarantine is at most priority right now as only this can prevent the spreading of coronavirus. Indian Railways will remain shut from 22nd March to 31st March. Bus, Metro railways will also be minimized to contain the spread of the novel disease.
The image below gives the estimate of how many people each coronavirus- positive person came in contact with. Some coronavirus-infected persons had an association with only 2 people, some with 20 people, some with hundreds whereas some super-spreaders had an association with above thousand people. About 400 cases are linked to a coronavirus-infected man who visited a church in South Korea. And India can also have super-spreaders like these countries.
In Mangalore, a suspected person reportedly ran away from the medical authorities taking medical check-up. A similar incident happened in Kerala when an American couple fled the hospital premises. Imagine the number of persons these people may have infected if they are coronavirus-positive.
The Government is thus taking steps to reduce these kinds of risks. The Prime Minister of India in a live telecast declared ‘Janta Curfew’ on 22nd March 2020. It is reportedly done to reduce public gathering, travel and any sort of contact that could higher the number of cases. It is also done as a mark of appreciation to the medical workers who are staying in the hospital premises taking care of the patients while we stay at home. Hence it is not only the duty of the Government to take necessary actions but our responsibility too to abide by their orders.
What to do for the next 30 days?
- For the next 30 days, avoid physical contact as much as possible.
- Keep the surroundings neat and hygienic.
- Unless extremely important do not step out of your homes for the next 30 days.
- Avoid using local transport and any pool or ride cars for the next 30 days.
- Keep hygienic products in stock like tissue papers, sanitizers, soap, etc for the next 30 days.
- It is also of utmost importance that one does not only avoids getting infected but also reduce spreading it.
- So wash hands every time you sneeze, cough or use any public property.
- Until a medical cure or a vaccine is made available it is impossible to curb the spread of the disease. The only way to help is to remain quarantined.
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