South Asian Insider
India has a short window to win the war against Covid-19
Infection rates have to be brought down in the next few weeks. For that, testing and treatment facilities are key The coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has already taken a toll on people’s health care across the world. Forty years ago, the world witnessed the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic that killed 40 million people and left another 30 million HIV+. While Africa bore the maximum brunt of the pandemic then, the epicentre for Covid-19 appears to be the rich nations of western Europe and the United States (US). Initially, India’s response to Covid-19 was quick. The government identified the risk in allowing people from China to enter the country, and adopted quarantine procedures for those who were evacuated from Wuhan and other cities in China, and later from Iran and Italy. India could minimise the initial impact because of these timely steps. However, what followed later was a large influx of people (estimated around two to two-and-a-half million), including students, tourists, pilgrims and residents from India, who returned to the country between January and March 2020 until the borders were closed to international traffic on March 21. They returned from various international destinations and proceeded to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and airports in northern Kerala, among other places. The government introduced thermal screening procedures for those coming from abroad, while others who were asymptomatic or not detected by thermal scanners were allowed entry with an advisory to stay at home and observe quarantine procedures. But many did not follow it strictly. In the intervening period, they have travelled within the country, met people, participated in social functions and infected a large number of people. The rising infections in the last few weeks are mainly reported from among this section of the population and their contacts. The government has done a fine job of sharing the details of incoming passengers with the state governments and district administrations. But how effectively each of them was followed up on and counselled to stay at home is not clear. Some state governments have now started monitoring these cases but that was only after they tested positive. Critical time was lost in enforcing the quarantine instructions until the “janata curfew” (people’s curfew) and the subsequent lockdown in high-prevalence districts started taking effect. The prime minister has now announced an extended lockdown for 21 days which is very timely. It will provide time and a window of opportunity for the central and state governments to mount an intensified response within a short period of identifying people who returned from abroad and their families and testing them. This testing load is bound to be large and the present testing arrangements will be stretched to their full capacity. The testing procedures until now are built around viral load testing by taking throat swabs. The time taken for the test results is between three to five days. The tests are costly and can be carried out only in specialist institutions. The key to scale-up testing in a large population is to introduce tests that can give results the same day to enable treatment at an early stage of infection. Such tests are based on detecting antibodies in the infected person. Antibody tests are generally more affordable both for patients and government agencies. In the case of HIV/AIDS, the entire testing programme was centred around making available rapid testing to check HIV status. In a short period of time, a large number of HIV positive persons were identified for providing anti- retroviral treatment (ART) and AIDS-related mortality was substantially reduced. This is an opportune time for the government to look for rapid antibody testing for Covid-19 for both symptomatic and asymptomatic travellers and their close contacts. South Korea and Singapore effectively used rapid testing to identify positive cases who were quarantined and followed up on. The United States Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a rapid test for Covid-19. India has the technological capability to produce a high-quality rapid test quickly. In the short-term, the government can import rapid test kits and use them in the testing programmes. This will help in scaling up testing facilities in health care institutions right up to the district level and take the pressure off specialist institutions and laboratories. The battle for control of Covid-19 can be won if the new infection rates can be brought down substantially in the next two to three weeks. And providing testing and treatment facilities to those who are at risk is the key to success. We should not make the mistakes some European countries made in not responding rapidly enough. It will prove to be unaffordable in the Indian context.
PM Modi’s approval rating falls as India struggles to contain second Covid-19 wave: US firm
Approval ratings of PM Modi have fallen to a new low as India grapples with coronavirus pandemic, according to a US data intelligence company. Narendr...
International row created, Delhi ministers still insist Singapore Covid variant is real
Amidst the diplomatic storm that has ensued following Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of “Singapore variant” of Covid-19, Delhi ministers insist tha...
"India A Major Priority": US Yet To Decide On Allocation Of 80 Million Vaccine Jabs
A top US official said the allocation decision will be made on the basis of need and collaboration with key partners and COVAX. (Insider Bureau)-No...
Indian-Origin Chemist Among Tech 'Nobel' Prize Winners For Revolutionary DNA Technique
President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinisto, who is the Patron of the prize, presented the award to the scientists in a virtual ceremony on Tu...
No one wants to work anymore
The truth behind this unemployment benefits myth. * Millions of unemployed in US face hardship under Republican benefit cuts * At least 22 Republica...
Rajnath Singh asks Army to be on war footing in Covid battle, provide medical help across states
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has urged the Indian Army to open up its medical facilities for civilians and asked top commanders in states to be in t...
Vaccine embargo: Why Modi needs to call Joe Biden
A US embargo on the export of raw materials could upset India's plans to ramp up its Covid-19 vaccination drive (Insider Bureau)--While the Centre...
As Sanjeev Gupta Rose From Trader to Tycoon, Several Banks Backed Away
Four banks stopped working with British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta's commodity trading business, starting in 2016, after alleged paperwork problems i...
‘’Enough Is Enough”: Relative Of Sikh Woman Killed In US FedEx Shooting
Brandon Scott Hole, 19, and a former employee at the facility in Indianapolis carried out the mass shooting on late Thursday before allegedly killing ...
US 'very closely' tracking course of Covid-19 outbreak in India
(Insider Bureau)-The United States is tracking the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in India "very closely", the State Department has said. The Center...
© All rights Reserved. The south Asian, Published Weekly from New york.