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All is not so gloomy on COVID-19 front in India: Studies Suggest

–Shams Khan

TNW, New Delhi, April,11. Notwithstanding the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, analysis of several studies suggests that the intensity of COVID- 19 is likely to stay moderate in India. This optimism remains valid in spite of the inadequate health infrastructure and practical difficulties in maintaining social distancing.

In an article–we could be vastly overestimating the death rate for COVID-19. Here’s why–Nina Schwalbe pointed out that we do not know how many people are actually infected with epidemic. She explained that the data of infected people do not capture asymptomatic or having mild symptoms infections as these cases seldom get tested. “Because of lack of adequate testing, including in the United States, in many places only hospital patients are now counted as cases. The people who do not feel seriously ill stay home, recover quietly, and are never counted. This matters because they do not appear in any of the official statistics,” she wrote.

The COVID-19 death rate of India at 3.2%, which in any case is low, could possibly be lower considering relatively lesser number of testing has been done, though now it has been ramped up. Interestingly, among all the tested only 4% were found infected — In comparison with severely affected countries such as Spain (45%), United Kingdom (23%), United State of America (20%), Italy (16%)  Germany (9%), Canada (5.75) this is significantly low. (At 5:00 PM, April 11, Source: worldometer)

On the other hand, a health ministry official stated on Tuesday that 70% of recorded confirmed cases of the country are mild in nature. While, according to a recent India Today analysis, almost 85% of the infected people are less than 60 years of age. It’s well established that below 60 COVID-19 infected people are less prone to severe health conditions, provided they dont have any serious aliments. This certainly offers a glimmer of hope.

In this backdrop, following study cited by a report in The Hindu strengthen the proposition : “A recent study in Lancet Infectious Diseases shows a steep age gradient in deaths from COVID-19.The case fatality rates are nearly four times higher for those over 60 years of age. They are 12 times higher for those above 70 years. With this evidence in hand, and no exceptions being reported, governments across the world have advised isolation for all those aged 60 and above,”

However, the flip side of people of younger age getting infected with highly contagious COVID-19 is that they could potentially infect more people: the below thirty age group is known as ‘Super Spreader’.

Moreover, a widely cited epidemiological study “compared large number of countries BCG vaccination policies with the morbidity and mortality for COVID-19”. The study “found that countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination (Italy, Nederland, USA) have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies”.

BCG is a Tuberculosis vaccination which boosts the immunity and also said to be effective against other respiratory tract infections. Clinical trials in Netherlands and some other countries are underway to ascertain the fact. The study has sparked interest in India as BCG is administered to virtually every child here.

On the basis of above studies and facts it can be said that at this stage India is better placed to tackle the COVID-19 challenge. We need to focus on our elders and those who are suffering from critical health conditions along with more intense testing and containment. Though there is no room for complacency yet, as a society we must not get panicky and swayed by negativity. Indeed, the pandemic itself is a negative condition therefore the role of positive vibes to overcome the Corona Virus becomes indispensible.

(The writer is associated with ‘Bihar Times’, The views are personal)

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