- In terms of per million population, COVID numbers are not bad: Dr Randeep
- Work aggressively in hotspots to contain the spread of COVID: Dr Randeep
- Difficult to have COVID vaccination in 45 days: Dr Randeep Guleria
New Delhi: India is moving ahead in the race no one wants to win. On Sunday (July 5) evening, India recorded over 6.9 lakh COVID-19 cases and overtook Russia as the third worst-hit nation by Novel Coronavirus. India is now preceded by US and Brazil and the COVID-19 cases are still on a rise. If we look at the trend in the rise in total COVID-19 cases in India, the nation took 56 days to report 1 lakh cases. However, the timeline has changed drastically.
It took India 16 days to move from one lakh COVID cases to two lakh cases, 11 days to reach 3 lakh, 9 days to have 4 lakh cases and just a week to report total 5 lakh cases. The next one lakh cases came in four days and in another five days, the tally reached 7 lakh.
According to the experts, the increase in COVID-19 cases can be attributed to an increase in testing, lockdown relaxations and the laxity of people.
Talking to NDTV about how concerned the nation should be about ever-rising COVID number, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said, “The rise in the number of cases will always be a cause of concern but we should look at it in terms of population. If you look at cases per million population, our numbers are not that bad.”
Though the cases are following an upward graph, there is a silver lining – recovery rate. As on July 9, India has 7.6 lakh (7,67,296) COVID-19 cases of which more than half of the patients have recovered taking the number to 4,76,378. Apart from this, 2.69 lakh COVID patients are still undergoing treatment and 21,129 fatalities have been recorded.
On June 1o, for the first time, the number of COVID-19 recovered patients overtook the number of active cases.
The recovery rate which currently stands at 62.1 per cent and is ever rising gives hope that though the number of COVID cases in India is high, more people are recovering. Sharing his views on how optimistic one should be, Dr Guleria said,
I think that’s the positive side that even if we have a large number of cases, the majority of our cases are having a mild illness or asymptomatic. What it basically means is that our mortality is going to be very low and that’s going to be the bottom line; how many lives have we saved; how many deaths happened. The number will always be more in terms of cases because of the size of our population.
Further talking about what needs to be done to control the rising number of cases, Dr Guleria suggested focusing on hotspots and said,
We need to really work hard to see where these cases are coming from. They are coming from a limited number of hotspots and we need to work very aggressively to be able to contain this spread of infection in these areas. And that’s the biggest challenge that we have as of now. I think if we work in containing these areas and preventing this rise from happening, we should be able to control the number of cases.
Though India is in the unlock phase now, some states and cities are still reeling under lockdown to contain the spread of the SARS-CoV-2. For instance, after reporting a spike in cases, Kerala imposed a ‘triple lockdown’ in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram for a week. During the lockdown, the health officials plan to carry out large-scale antigen tests in hotspots of the city and extensive contact tracing of those COVID positive patients.
Talking about how feasible lockdown and re-lockdown are and whether they bear any results, Dr Guleria said,
At some point in time, depending on how the cases behave, you will have to look at limited lockdown or re-lockdown. This is done in Singapore, Beijing, New Zealand and many other countries have looked at it. Australia has recently done it. These are measures you need to take as the pandemic evolves over a period of time.
With the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, India has fast-tracked the development of an indigenous vaccine. In a letter, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava that asked doctors in 12 hospitals to “fast track” clinical trials. Further talking about whether India will be able to launch a vaccine against COVID-19 by August 15 this year, Dr Guleria said,
When we talk about vaccination, it is going to be difficult to have it in 45 days. There are processes which need to be followed in phase 1, phase 2, and phase 3 trials. They themselves take time and when we are giving a vaccine to healthy individuals, the utmost thing is that it has to be safe. It should not have the side effects of the vaccine itself and it should give a good amount of immunity and therefore this thing takes time in terms of making sure it causes immunity. You have to follow up individuals to see for the immune reaction and you need to see for other things.
Internationally, many countries have ramped up the process of vaccine development by launching different phases of trial simultaneously. Even in such a condition, will India be able to deliver vaccine by August 15? Dr Guleria said,
45 days is rather difficult. A lot of countries are trying to really see what they can do in terms of doing things in parallel rather than sequence and because of that, they try to shorten the time. Manufacturing could be started up front rather than waiting for phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 trials and a lot of such things can be done. I’m sure it will make a difference in some time.
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.