New Delhi: India’s coronavirus cases are increasing undeterred on a daily basis and from the past few days, according to data shared by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the country has been reporting biggest single-day hike from few days – on Sunday, India reported 38,000 fresh coronavirus cases and on Monday the country recorded an increase of 40,000, taking the tally beyond 11 lakh. To understand this surge in the COVID-19 cases and the way forward, NDTV spoke with two experts – Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman Medanta and Dr Rajesh Malhotra, Chief, COVID Centre, AIIMS, here’s what they have to say:
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Question: India seeing over 30,000 coronavirus cases a day from past few days, what does it mean for the country? What is the road ahead?
Dr Naresh Trehan: Now, we know coronavirus has a shifting pattern. Mumbai started the spike first, followed by Delhi. Now, we are seeing the surge in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and even Karnataka. What is happening in India is what we have seen in USA’s coronavirus fight as well. So, New York started to report the highest coronavirus cases and now it has shifted to Florida and Texas. So, I think there is a pattern in this virus itself and how it keeps spreading from one place to another. What we are seeing in India is the exponential growth, we have crossed one million mark as well. But fortunately, the death rate in the country is still reasonable.
In simple terms, the disease is such that it spreads from one place to another and as soon as the cases reach the peak, people across become very careful and they start acting responsibly and that’s when you see a downfall. The most important learnings from COVID-19 is that you cannot let your guard down. We can only break the chain of this virus on our own, there is no other cure as such for now. We all need to pretend like we are in lockdown and function like we are not. If we as a country are able to do this then India will definitely come out of the coronavirus crisis. We will see better recovery rate and mortality rate due to coronavirus will go down.
Question: Should India be worried about the virus immunity and the controversy around it that it disappears a few months after the recovery?
Dr Rajesh Malhotra: We should all emphasise on the fact that till date we don’t know much about the novel coronavirus. And that’s why we are facing controversies or questions like these. As of date, we don’t know a 100 per cent answer, studies and research on the same are going ON and soon we will be able to know more information on the same.
Question: Is India in community transmission stage and is it important for the government to own up to the claim?
Dr Naresh Trehan: I for once have not really understood the meaning of community transmission. From what I understand is that if we are not able to contact trace the source of infection for a person then it is called community transmission. But on the other hand, in India, this has been happening for a very long time. I don’t know why we have to admit or not admit in what stage the country is in terms of coronavirus crisis. It doesn’t matter, what we know is that the infection is spreading like a wildfire. The basic thing we need to worry about is that if enough tests are being done to cope up with the disease. And the other very important thing for the patients out there who are undergoing home isolation or quarantine for COVID-19, they should be monitored by some agency on a regular basis so that when the needs arrive to make the shift to the hospital it can be done on an immediate basis. This way, we will be able to save more and more lives. I think, for now, India should only focus on testing more and more people and making sure they are well treated.
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Question: Indian Medical Association has recently issued a red alert after it reported that 99 doctors have died due to COVID-19. How difficult this crisis has been for the doctors?
Dr Naresh Trehan: Initially, when coronavirus hit us, we had very little knowledge about the disease. We didn’t know about the pattern, symptoms, didn’t have adequate protecting gears and doctors along with subordinating staff were just put in the frontline to fight the battle. And in the early stages, there was lack of any treatment as well and that is when I think many doctors and healthcare workers got exposed to the virus and that’s why we couldn’t save them. But now the industry has rose to the standards, we have Personal Protective Equipments and we are able to saVe ourself much better than before. Moreover, now there are standard operating practices that across India has been identified which were earlier missing in terms of COVID treatment.
Dr Rajesh Malhotra: At AIIMS, what we have done since the beginning of the pandemic and which is why we have been able to protect the healthcare workers more is that we had formed a committee for the PPE, which was very stringently checking for the quality of the equipments, we made it a point that the quality of the gear is non-negotiable. I think, now across the board such practices have been formed and doctors and healthcare workers are in a much better position to fight the virus.
Question: How do weekend or rational lockdown helping India in curbing the spread of coronavirus?
Dr Naresh Trehan: I don’t know what these short lockdowns will achieve for the country, but there must be some thought process behind it and that’s why state governments across are following it. What I think of the virus is that the lockdowns can only delay the process of infection, the only way forward and the only way to break the chain lies within all of us. We need to be extra vigilant about getting the virus.
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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.