- India's coronavirus tally is over 2 million
- Most new cases are mild probably due to heard immunity: Expert
- Concerned about the long term impact of COVID-19: Expert
New Dehi: India’s coronavirus count has crossed the 20 lakh or two million-mark. India is recording about 50,000 cases a day but in Delhi, the numbers have come down drastically and many believe that the national capital has crossed its peak. However, cases are increasing in southern states. Dr Vivek Nangia from Max Hospital Saket told NDTV that even in hospitals, they have noticed that not many new patients are from Delhi but from neighbouring states. He said,
“Mostly we have a lot of patients from Uttar Pradesh, especially cities like Meerut, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Lucknow and Jhansi among others.”
Furthermore, he says that the most new cases are mostly mild, ‘probably due to the herd immunity’, Dr Nangia said,
I think most mild cases are probably because of the herd immunity that people are developing, from their neighbours, friends who might have been asymptomatic carriers. Another possible factor for this could be because people are coming in early at the onset of the disease, where interventions can be started early. With COVID, we have noticed that the earlier you start the treatment, the better it is. The more you delay, the more the complications set in which can at times get irreversible.
When it comes to the rising trend in the COVID-19 cases in South India, Dr P Raghuram – President, Association of Surgeons of India tells NDTV that this is ‘worrying’. He said,
If you look at India as a whole, we are the third-largest in terms of the cases, and fifth in terms of the worst affected countries. We must understand that India is a huge country we have a population of 1.38 billion, compared to the United States of 300 million and Brazil with 200 million. When you look at the population as a whole, the absolute number of cases being diagnosed is significant and the absolute number of deaths are also increasing. However, if you look at the mortality per million, India stands at 28 and if you compare this to any other western country, it is 20 times better. Even the case fatality rate which is 2 per cent, again compared to any other country is much better off. Also, the number of patients recovering in India is 67 per cent. So these figures are very reassuring.
Further, Dr Raghuram tells NDTV that the number of patients requiring oxygen support in India is about 2 per cent, and those requiring ICU care is even lower at 0.22 per cent. He adds,
This means 1 in 500 patients in India require ICU care or ventilator support. So these are all reassuring trends. The numbers will be high, and I don’t think we should be very alarmed with just absolute numbers.
Lately, there have been worrying news about the long-term impact of COVID-19 with recovered patients who are reporting lung damage. Dr Nangia explained the kind of problems recovered patients are facing. He said,
What we are dealing with in a post-COVID scenario are some concerns which we didn’t see about a month and a half ago. The most common issue faced by a recovered patient is extreme exhaustion, then there’s fatigue and breathlessness. There is also a new onset of fever that the patients are developing after 3-4 weeks of recovery of mild cases. But the severe patients who recovered have issues like pulmonary fibrosis, where they are experiencing breathlessness and when they get CT scan done, it shows scarring in the lungs, which to some extent can be irreversible but we still don’t know how it will pan out in a month or two. But yes, these are the most common complications being faced by the recovered patients.
Dr Raghuram reflects on the testing capacity of India, saying that the more number of tests that we conduct, the more cases will be detected. He said,
We are now doing over 6 lakh tests per day and heading towards 10 lakh tests per day. Therefore, with more public figures getting infected, there’s a lot of fear in the community, but we must keep the positive points in our mind and be reassured that we are doing well.
Despite ramping up tests, the World Health Organization said that India is testing lesser than other nations. Furthermore, in India, Rapid Antigen tests are being used increasingly despite knowing that it shows a lot of false negatives. Delhi High Court had recently said that we should rely upon the gold standard RT-PCR tests. Dr Nangia said,
As far as the diagnosis of COVID-19 is considered, we definitely need to rely upon RT-PCR tests as antigen testing is slightly unreliable. Our policy at MAX hospital is that we do one COVID antigen test, if it is positive, we consider the patient to be positive, but if it is negative, then we also conduct an RT-PCR test. So, antigen tests are more of a screening tests and can be done on symptomatic patients because the advantage is that it is cheaper and the report is available to you within half an hour.
As we entered August, the government announced the guidelines for Unlock 3, where the highlight was the decision to open gyms. Dr Raghuram suggests that people should ‘certainly not go to gyms at the moment’. He said,
We are in the midst of a raging pandemic, so the last thing we must do is exercise in a public space, particularly I have seen people exercising in gyms with their masks on social media. I don’t think that should be done as it reduces the airflow and could lead to serious problems.
Dr Nangia agrees and says that exercising in open is still preferable, he said,
I think gyms could be a source of cross infections because they possibly can’t be maintaining the standards required – like social distancing, machines need to be sanitised after every costumer had used it, they should be avoiding taking showers at the gyms, there should be adequate ventilation in the gyms.
Lastly, when it comes to reopening the schools without a vaccine in place, the experts agree that we must not reopen schools for now.
We at least need to flatten the curve, if not bend it, before considering reopening of schools, Dr Raghuram signed off.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.