As April comes to an end, India is preparing to enter a new phase of its containment strategy. The national lockdown, which will end in less than a week on May 3, has given authorities time to contain the infection and scale up health infrastructure. Sitabhra Sinha, a scientist at the Chennai-based Institute of Mathematical Sciences, who has been studying the spread of the epidemic in India through computer modelling, told The Indian Express there was no doubt the lockdown achieved “a considerable slowdown” in the spread of the disease.
As of Thursday, the country had over 33,000 Covid-19 cases, including 23,651 active cases, 1,074 deaths and 8,324 recoveries. The country is testing an average of over 49,000 people a day. (An Expert Explains why the number of tests cannot be the same across India)
The doubling time of the disease in India is now 15 days. In the week before the lockdown, the doubling time was 3.4 days. By the week ending April 27, it had improved to 10.77 days. The doubling rate refers to the number of days it takes for the count of cases to double.
Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha have the highest doubling rates at 11-15 days. Telangana has the lowest at 58 days, followed by Kerala (37.5 days), Uttarakhand (30.3 days) and Haryana (24.4 days).
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West Bengal, where the doubling date was 7.13 days during the period April 23 to April 27, is a cause for concern. The state reported 758 cases on Thursday including 22 deaths.
Maharashtra and Gujarat account for the highest cases in India, at 9,915 and 4,082 respectively. The two states also account for 60 per cent of India’s Covid-19 deaths — 432 have died in Maharashtra, and 197 in Gujarat.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), meanwhile, advised states to stop rapid tests — which take less than 30 minutes to determine if one has Covid-19 — saying the newly procured kits had failed quality checks. It said the acquired kits from China would be sent back.
Dr R R Gangakhedkar, head of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the ICMR, said: “This is a first-generation test developed in just three-and-a-half months and needs refinement, yet the variations cannot be ignored. We will send personnel from eight institutes to the field to validate the kits. We have advised the states not to use the tests… till we come out with an advisory.”
The government will in a few days announce new guidelines to be followed from May 4. Wider relaxations are expected to restart the economy. Another thing to look out for is whether the government will announce a fiscal relief package or, will it pass the buck to the RBI in order to maintain the fiscal deficit? It is also yet to be seen how the government unlocks India’s borders to facilitate passengers from abroad. Kerala, for instance, is expecting a large number of migrants from the Gulf. (An Expert Explains: In lockdown, govt must create green worker pools, not green zones)
Since the lockdown came into force in March, India has seen a reduction in its energy demands by over 30 per cent. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has also noted that in India, where “economic growth and power production are slowing significantly”, the demand for coal will decline steeply.
In other news, in its recent guidelines, the government allowed patients with mild or pre-symptomatic Covid-19 to opt for home quarantine. The shift in policy is to limiting hospitalisation to patients who really needed it in order to rationalise the use of hospital beds. It also helps lower the risk of infection to frontline workers.
The government is still issuing the usual advisories, including frequently washing your hands, social distancing and wearing masks. If you begin to feel unwell after visiting a high-risk area, the government advises self-isolation by staying at home.
Covid-19: Four months on, here’s what we know about the disease
As the world fights Covid-19, researchers are studying the virus to help invent a cure or vaccine. What do we know so far? Scientists have identified two specific types of cells in the nose that are likely to be initial infection points for the SARS-CoV2. This helps explain how the virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Men seem to be contracting the infection more than women. There are many theories as to why this is so, including biological and lifestyle factors.
Doctors in Europe are warning of a new disease among children which could be linked to the coronavirus. Many hospitals are reporting a rise in patients with a “multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care”. More details are awaited.
South Korea has found that testing could not be as accurate as once believed as dead coronavirus particles in the body are also throwing up positive results.
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