India is now ranked at the seventh position in the list of the world’s worst-hit countries in terms of the coronavirus pandemic. The first case of the coronavirus in India was recorded in late January and now in mere 4 months, the cases of the infection have reached 190,791. In the way, this virus is spreading like a wild fire that every day the numbers are increasing in thousands then it seems like the community transmission in India has been well established now as there is a high possibility that in the next 24 hours the cases will cross 2 lakhs. If the community transmission has begun in our country then now it is next to impossible to contain the spread of the virus as India is a densely populated country with a population of around 1.33 billion people.
The statement has been made by medical professional associations that “It is unrealistic to expect that the Covid-19 pandemic can be eliminated at this stage given that community transmission is already well-established across the large sections or sub-populations in the country.”
In a joint statement, medical professional associations have criticised the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the Indian government stating that “a draconian lockdown, incoherent strategies led to India paying a heavy price”.
The evidence of community transmission has also come forward earlier when the Indian research body ICMR dropped possible hints at community transmission in clusters in India. However, health professionals as well as the health ministry continued to deny the spread of community transmission in the country.
If we have reached at the stage of the community transmission then it is quite possible that more than half of the population may have COVID-19 by the end of this year. Medical practitioners at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS) have now discovered that the coronavirus disease cases in India will keep on increasing even after the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown ends and that about 67 crore Indians, that is, almost half of the country’s population, is estimated to be infected with the virus by the end of this year. Now the question that arises here is that why is this happening despite of keeping the country in a complete lockdown mode for months?
The country was indeed in the complete lockdown for more than two months, but clearly, each lockdown has failed in containing the infection. It has been observed that imposing the lockdown is one of the effective measures that can be used by the countries to contain the spread of the pandemic as social distancing activities like lockdown helps to avoid the transmission among people.
India failed in containing the community spread because our government and authorities didn’t take the situation seriously in the beginning even after being warned many times, the government used this measure or strategy after the country recorded 500 plus cases and that too on very short notice.
This is the first thing in which the Indian government lacked as it has been observed that the other countries like Srilanka are doing really well in terms of controlling the spread of the virus, as there the government took the situation very seriously in the beginning and they imposed the lockdown after a Chinese tourist from Wuhan who travelled to the country in late January was traced with the coronavirus infection. It has been also observed that countries like Bangladesh and Srilanka are doing better because the government in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh acted swiftly to contain the spread of the contagion.
The lockdown in India was imposed on the very short notice which created a panic among the citizens who ignored all principles of social distancing and rushed to crowded stores to stock up essentials. The very first case of the coronavirus was recorded in the late January and the government ignored the severity of the situation in the beginning even after knowing that what has happened in the country like Italy where the government did the same mistake, the country ignored the situation and didn’t take it seriously as they were overconfident about having the second-best medical facilities. The Indian government rather than being conscious and careful about the situation, it implemented the lockdown on very short notice, without any preparations that too after recording the cases above 500 which generated congestion at various places which almost tripled the coronavirus cases and the very first lockdown failed. And may be the relatively higher number of cases recorded in India is the result of the government losing two precious weeks before implementing any serious physical distancing measures.
The second strategy that went wrong was the relaxations and exemptions that were given to certain industries and sectors in the second and third phases of the lockdown. For example, the opening of liquor shops which led to long and large queues of the people near the liquor shops and where the norms of social distancing were violated and, if this was the strategy of the government to improve the economic conditions in the country then this proves that how hollow our system and economy have become.
The third strategy that is going wrong is the exemptions that have been provided now in the fourth phase and the fifth of the lockdown that is opening of markets and all shops except the malls and metros. And now the result and repercussions of these exemptions are in front of you, no social distancing are being followed in the markets because of which the coronavirus cases in India have jumped to 190,791.
A question on the healthcare system and the government of India:
As mentioned before, the medical professional association, associations of epidemiologists, public health practitioners and experts in preventive and social medicine has issued a joint statement which reads that India has entered into the stage of community transmission, and this has all happened because of the careless attitude of the Indian government. The government of India has not even consulted epidemiologists who had a better grasp of disease transmission dynamics compared to modelers. The statement also added that it would have perhaps been better served. From the limited information available in the public domain, it seems that the government primarily advised by clinicians and academic epidemiologists with limited field training and skills.
It is somewhat true that the healthcare system and infrastructure of our country are not up to the mark for fighting and curing the novel coronavirus, so it is the responsibility of the authorities to consult and consider experts before judging and making any statements on the situation and the transmission in the country. It has been mentioned earlier by the ICMR that there is a threat of community transmission in clusters in India. Then why the government and the health ministry kept on denying the severity of the situation and the truth? Why the government is not taking any expert advice?
May be if the government of India would have focused on the healthcare and infrastructure of the country rather than building statues, buying aircraft and buying MLAs then may be the situation would have been very different and the country would have better equipments and facilities to test and contain the virus.
To control the situation the government needs to test and detect more cases:
There is a need of testing more in our country as an important component of any strategy to deal with the pandemic is the use of testing to detect the virus and isolate the infected population. Testing has generally been low in the India as compared to the other countries. It has been recently suggested by the experts that India needs to ramp up the number of tests done across the country to trace COVID-19 infection cases if it wants to contain the pandemic in time. India is relatively testing slowly than the others as the Countries with relatively high testing rates had to impose fewer lockdown restrictions, and have been able to open up more quickly than India without having community transmission.
Under reporting the cases of the coronavirus infection is might possible as clearly, the country is not testing enough. Many claims have been made by MOHFW, India, where they take into account the large population of India to show a low number of cases per million people or per lakh people. If a country is testing less, it’s much obvious that the number of cases per million people will appear less which is more dangerous as this raises the fear of community spread.
The associations have also made certain recommendations that would be useful in containing the virus in time, they have suggested replacing the lockdown with cluster restrictions, scaling up diagnostic facilities to test, trace, track and isolate sentinel and active surveillance to identify hot spots or clustering, avoiding social stigma, and protective gear for health workers.
Thus, the situation in India is getting worse day by day. The people now need to be more conscious and active in taking all the precautionary measures as we have reached at the stage of community transmission. Various states are already facing problems like shortage of beds and doctors clearly we are heading towards a doomsday situation from where the recovery is very scary.