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Insights into Editorial: How coronavirus cases doubled in India, elsewhere

Context:

The Health Ministry circulated a chart comparing India’s doubling rate for COVID-19 with those of seven other countries, including the six that had the highest number of cases as of that date. Doubling rate here refers to how many days it takes for a country’s case count to double.

While the doubling rate of India’s cases has been largely slower compared to the rates in the seven countries showcased by the Health Ministry, there are 12 other countries that have had a higher number of cases than India, that one can compare with.

The countries with a higher case count than India’s were, from highest to lowest: the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Iran, Turkey, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Portugal, Austria, Ireland and Israel.

 

Coronavirus cases: Phase by phase:

  1. For the first phase of doubling (from 750 to 1,500), the case count in India took five days, according to numbers from database.
  2. This was longer than in any other country. Comparatively, countries such as Iran, Spain, and Turkey took only one day to double in this range.
  3. By the second phase of growth (1,500 to 3,000), India had jumped to the middle of the pack, with cases in seven countries growing slower than in India, and those in 12 countries growing either faster or in the same number of days (three).
  4. The countries where the doubling rates in this phase were longer than India’s are: UK, Russia, Portugal, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Ireland which witnessed the slowest growth, with the rise from 1,500 to 3,000 cases taking six days.
  5. In the third phase of growth, India appears to have contained the outbreak well, with cases taking five days to jump from 3,000 to 6,000.
  6. Apart from Ireland, where doubling took eight days, all other countries saw this phase of doubling taking either less time than, or the same time as, in India. In Spain, it took only one day.
  7. In the final phase of growth, cases in India took six days to double from 6,000 to 12,000.
  8. Only in four countries was this growth slower than in India. In Israel, growth seems to have significantly slowed, with this doubling phase taking 13 days. This phase took 10 days in Austria, eight in Portugal, and seven in Ireland.
  9. Among countries where this phase of growth was faster than in India, the US, Germany and China each saw it happen in the shortest time: two days.

Immunocompromised people in any country are at high risk:

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for people who are at increased risk of getting severely ill from Covid-19.

These include those who are 65 years or older, people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, those with heart disease and immunocompromised people.

A person from any age group can become immunocompromised either due to certain medical treatments or due to diseases such as auto-immune diseases.

Conversely, reports have indicated that in some Covid-19 patients, even seemingly healthy ones, death has occurred probably due to a cytokine storm, which is when the immune system goes into overdrive, thereby damaging even healthy tissue, leading to multiple organ failure, sepsis and potentially, even death.

Essentially this means that the immune system needs to be working in a controlled manner to be efficient in fighting off infection.

What does it mean to be immunocompromised?

  1. Research indicates that age, people with certain comorbidities and those with weakened immune systems may be at higher risk of developing severe illness and therefore, should be more cautious.
  2. A person’s immune system helps the body to fight off infections. Therefore, it is important that the immune system is working efficiently to fight infection such as that given by the SARS-CoV-2.
  3. Ideally, once the immune system is triggered into action, it will deploy white blood cells to the site of infection, thereby aiding the recovery of the infected individual.
  4. But in some people, the immune system is weakened, which means that their immune systems cannot function efficiently and therefore, make it difficult to recover or in some cases, may lead to more severe outcomes.
  5. Such people are said to be immunocompromised and there can be various reasons for this, such as cancer treatment, existing comorbidities, age and genetics among others.
  6. Further, some medications called immuno-suppressants can also lead to a weakened immune system.
  7. These medications dial down the response of an overactive immune system among people with certain auto-immune disorders. However, people on such medication should not stop taking them without consulting their healthcare provider.

Arogya Setu: A COVID-19 tracking mobile application:

It is developed by the National Informatics Centre that comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

The purpose of this app is to spread the awareness and to connect essential health services to the people of India. It uses smartphone’s GPS and Bluetooth features to track the coronavirus infection.

It is an updated version of an earlier app called Corona Kavach (now discontinued).

Aarogya Setu has four sections:

  • Your Status: tells the risk of getting COVID-19 for the user.
  • Self-Assess: lets the user know the risk of being infected.
  • COVID-19 Update: gives update on the local and national COVID-19 cases.
  • E-pass:yet to go active.

A human society that is sympathetic to and in harmony with our environment, and where human beings listen to and nurture their selves, may be an enduring recipe for a safer future.

India has a long heritage of nurturing one’s inner self — yoga and meditation have been adopted globally as secular exercises for a more robust constitution.

Conclusion:

The greatest challenge that the world faces today is in prediction of the imminent disasters that can be catastrophic. The Covid-19 pandemic is one such; others may include severe climate shocks.

Empanelling additional health facilities under PM-JAY to provide emergency care and treatment for other serious illnesses to all citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable

Direct support from banks to private sector to keep production and supply chains running.

India also has a long tradition of dealing with frugality as a virtue and can easily relate to what in ancient Greece was revered as gaia, dealing with the earth as our mother. These can be timeless lessons as human society seeks closer harmony with nature, to take us on to a safer trajectory in a post COVID-19 world.

With growing environmental and health stress, such disastrous events are likely to occur more often. This can only be tackled through collective actions.