- India has so far reported more than 6.07 million coronavirus cases
- Experts talk about the lessons learnt from COVID-19 pandemic
- From Handwashing to nutrition all are in focus during this outbreak: Expert
New Delhi: Year 2020 started with the world learning about the new virus called novel coronavirus or SARS-COV2, when China raised an alarm about a contagious disease being caused by a new strain of Coronavirus. What started back in December in just one region – Wuhan in China with mere few cases has today spread to more than 213 countries and territories around the world and has infected over 33.1 million people. India, which is the second worst-hit country after the United States, has so far reported more than 6.07 million coronavirus cases, according to the data by the health ministry as of September 27.
COVID-19 is a mega-pandemic, which most people in the world have never seen in their lifetime. No other outbreak, even if it was called a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has affected as many people and as many countries as this one has, since the 1918 Flu pandemic.
COVID-19 is a Zoonotic disease, one which normally spreads from animals to humans. Zoonoses can spread through direct contact between animals and humans from food, water or the environment. While this pandemic is caused by a virus, Zoonotic disease could also be caused by bacteria, parasites, and fungi. The earlier variants of this virus were responsible for outbreaks like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012.
While the world continues to learn more and more about this new Coronavirus with each passing day, here are the things this pandemic has taught us so far:
Maintaining A Good Hygiene Is Crucial: The reaffirmation of the importance of hand washing is one of the biggest takeaways of the covid-19 crisis. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the one measure which the world knows of as an effective preventive measure for this highly contagious disease, is washing hands regularly with soap or sanitiser and water.
Palli Thordarson, a professor at the School of Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Australia, took to social media to explain the molecular chemistry behind the logic of washing hands. The professor in a series of tweets that have got more than 78,000 views and likes, explained that the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link in the lipid (fatty) bilayer. He said,
When we wash hands with soap, it dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.
Professor Thordarson further added that human skin is an ideal surface for a virus. He adds,
It is organic and the proteins and fatty acids in the dead cells on the surface interact with the virus and from hands, it can reach your face if you touch it and from the face it can enter in your eyes, nose and mouth. So the virus can get in…and voila! You get infected. That is why killing the virus from your hands become an utmost important step.
1/25 Part 1 – Why does soap work so well on the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? Because it is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. A two part thread about soap, viruses and supramolecular chemistry #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/OCwqPjO5Ht
— Palli Thordarson (@PalliThordarson) March 8, 2020
Lockdown And Social Distancing Is Important: Explaining the impact of the virus and why lockdown or social distancing at this crucial time has become the only survival option, an expert from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said,
Think of your health care system as one car, which can only accommodate a certain number of people at once. What happens, if there is an emergency and you want to accommodate 100 people in one car, you won’t be able to do it, as a result, people will have to wait for their chance or their turn to ride. Similarly, if COVID-19 spreads at the current rate and infect thousands of more people at once there will be a shortage of hospital beds, hospital facilities for example ventilators and other equipment which are needed. To avoid this strain lockdowns help.
Highlighting the importance of social distancing and that people should learn to live with these new ways for longer duration of time, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman, Medanta said,
Coronavirus has an R-O factor 3 attached to it, which means one infected person will pass on the virus to three other people, they will infect 9 other people, which further will infect 27 and the number will go on. Secondly, majority of coronavirus cases in India are asymptomatic, which means the infected person doesn’t exhibit any symptoms of the disease. So, in such a scenario, if the infected person continues to socialise the way he was doing before the pandemic then things will get worse. He will infect more and more people and the chain will continue, so social distancing works as a protective gear to this virus.
Importance of Coexisting With Planet Earth: If there is one lesson that is staring human race in the face it is the fact that human beings have really destroyed the equilibrium of planet earth. Climate experts have been warning about the threats of threat to the environment and climate change for some time but they have largely been ignored. When the lockdown took place, and immediately the positive signs of reduced human activity manifested itself in clean blue skies, the fresher air and cleaner water in rivers, resurfacing of dolphins from areas they had disappeared from, and even rapid healing of the depleting ozone layer. It was a sign of how much damage man was doing to life on earth.
According to the United Nations, biodiversity involves 8 million plant and animal species, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them. In the last 150 years, the live coral reef cover has been reduced by half. Within the next 10 years, one out of every four known species may have been wiped off the planet. Moreover, it would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make on nature each year.
Dr Naresh Trehan says,
This is a wake-up call. Viruses are going to get more and more prevalent. The environment is the one that has to actually neutralise these things that are happening around us. If we learn our lesson well and reset our priorities, we will be able to not only live in a better world but we will be much better prepared for our environmental dangers.
Further stressing on learning from the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Trehan said, this is a great lesson to learn. If we forget it in a short period, we will be suffering again. He added,
I think that if each one of us makes sure that we participate in this war, we will neutralise the present situation and as we move forward, we have to neutralise all the other things that have enabled our life to reach this stage.
India’s Nutrition Problem Is Huge And There Is An Urgent Need To Tackle It: The 1.3 billion people of India are currently fighting the dual battle – one against coronavirus pandemic and second against hunger and undernutrition. Experts believe that the pandemic has worsened the situation for India when it comes to nutrition and now it is no more just a fight against coronavirus but also a crisis in terms of undernutrition and malnutrition.
Dr. Antaryami Dash, Head, Nutrition from NGO Save the Children says that India’s nutritional status wasn’t great even before the pandemic. He adds,
Much-much before coronavirus time, in 1992, the average food deficit in kilocalories per person per day in India was 165, as per the Food and Agriculture Organisation. After 24 years, in 2016, India’s food deficit has reduced from 165 to 109, whereas the world’S reduced it from 172 to 88. These figures highlight a grim reality – it shows while the other countries managed to bring down the food deficit substantially, India somehow has not managed to bring down the deficit well. Food deficit is the proxy indicator which talks about how much additional kilocalories a nation needs to uplift the undernourished population. The high deficit for any country is not good. We know the pandemic has disturbed the services and livelihoodS, we can very well say that coronavirus will have a long-term impact on India’s nutrition. If we look at the current scenario, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, somewhere around 235 million people in India are facing insufficient food intake. As per the statistics, due to COVID, since the schools are shut, approximately 90 million children are missing out on meals at school in India, which is considered by these household the most nutritious meal. So, it is not anymore a fight against COVID, it is battle against undernutrition and malnutrition as well.
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.