The tally of Covid-19 positive cases in Chandigarh surpassed the 10,000-mark, with almost 3,000 active cases and rapidly rising incidents of asymptomatic carriers of the disease, pointing towards the high transmission rate of Covid-19 and a random spread of the virus in the city.
Professor (Dr) AK Aggarwal of PGIMER’s department of Community Medicine agrees that the disease’s transmission rate is very high in the city at present, as are the asymptomatic positive cases and the spread of the infection. “Prevention is the key, as is direct contact tracing, so that more people can be tested and put in isolation to reduce the speed of the spread at the community level. PGI is swelling with patients and has reached its capacity and the need is to get the infection rate down, which is achievable if we wear masks and maintain distance of one metre at least. In the case of HIV, people are now aware of the exposure, how to avoid it and take precautions. In this case, symptomatic or asymptomatic, we need to bring the rate of infection down, with more testing and by being personally responsible,” Dr Aggarwal says.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, recently said that a mask is more important than a vaccine. And here, let me clarify and emphasise on the urgent need and value of wearing good-quality cotton or surgical masks and not a bandana or handkerchief, which is actually harmful, for the creases can hold the virus. It’s not the neck that the mask should be wrapped around, but the nose and mouth. And this mask must be washed at the end of the day. Add to that face and hand hygiene, social distancing, and if we follow all these measures, we can contain the spread of the infection, as the caseload will also be less,” reflects Professor RK Kochhar, Head of the department of Gastroenterology and Sub-Dean, PGIMER.
Testing community groups is a good strategy to catch asymptomatic infections, says Dr Vikas Bhutani, Director Internal Medicine at Mohali’s Fortis Hospital, adding that provided the tests are made mandatory. For instance, China undertook mandatory mass testing for 11 million people at Wuhan and subsequently, re-opened its economy, schools and domestic tourism as well. “But directly resorting to mandatory testing may not be an efficient way of utilising our testing capability. On the other hand, voluntary coronavirus testing would give less than satisfactory results as happened in Hong Kong, where only one-tenth of the population came forward for screening.”
The doctor adds that as transmission by asymptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 may be a key factor in community spread, population-based surveillance and isolation of asymptomatic patients should be done. “Moreover, many individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection who remain asymptomatic for a prolonged period have viral load similar to that in symptomatic patients, hence, finding active cases through population surveillance would help in controlling the spread of the disease by isolating infected persons at an early stage, regardless of the symptoms. Having asymptomatic testing strategy in Chandigarh alone is not going to help control the pandemic unless we have a cohesive testing strategy across the neighbouring states too.”
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