Handling Surge


Institutional care must be expanded to provide treatment to COVID patients

THE unstoppable march of the coronavirus is growing to be more and more fearful. India crossed the 50-lakh mark of coronavirus positive cases on Wednesday morning after 90,123 fresh cases came to be recorded during the preceding 24 hours. India also recorded the highest number of deaths (1290) on the same day. Of the 50.20 lakh cases in the country recorded till Wednesday morning, 9.95 lakh were active. The country has recorded over 82,000 deaths so far. Since the beginning of August the country has continued to report the highest number of fresh coronavirus positive cases in the world and is now second to the United States of America in the COVID-19 cases and third behind the US and Brazil as regards deaths. While it took India 135 days to cross the 10-lakh mark in COVID-19 cases, it took just 21 days to cross the 20-lakh mark. The 30-lakh mark was crossed in subsequent 16 days, while the 40-lakh mark came in the next 13 days. The 50-lakh mark came in just 11 days. 

According to the data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country has so far conducted nearly 6 crore tests. It says over 11 lakh fresh tests have been conducted every day for over a fortnight now. The unbridled surge in the number of coronavirus cases presents a grim picture, with the epidemic and health experts saying that the country was yet to reach the peak in reporting COVID cases. There is also a belief among the health experts that India’s daily tally could be in the range of 2 lakh to 2.5 lakh as against the officially released data of around one lakh fresh cases per day over the last one week or so. They are also of the opinion that many people, most of whom could be asymptomatic, refrain from getting themselves tested under the belief that they have not been infected by the virus. The experts are of the opinion that the readings of rapid antigen tests that are used widely to test people may not be realistic.

While India continues to report the highest cases of coronavirus in the world, the central and state governments can draw some solace from the fact that the country has been witnessing high percentage of recoveries and falling percentage in reporting deaths. India has close to 80 percent recoveries and the percentage of deaths has been declining steadily and now stands at 1.6. There is a belief that Indians have better immunity to fight COVID-19. The falling percentage in deaths also indicates that the disease is not as lethal as it was made out to be in the initial stages. A high percentage of recoveries and falling death figures indicate that India, despite lack of appropriate health care infrastructure, has dealt with the pandemic better than many other countries with better health care amenities. There is a growing opinion among health officials that if the present trend in reporting the coronavirus cases together with recoveries continues, India could well be able to develop herd immunity.

However, in order to contain spikes, the state health authorities need to identify people with severity of symptoms and isolate and treat them before complications set in. Owing to a number of factors—primarily the compulsion to open up the economy and many people not strictly adhering to safety measures such as social distancing, wearing of masks and hand hygiene—it is unlikely that the spread of the virus can be contained to a satisfactory level in the coming months. It has also to be noted that though no cure is available, most people infected by the disease recovered on their own with little or no medication. In order to ensure that the death rate drops further, persons with other medical conditions should share their past medical history with the doctors treating them so that appropriate care is taken to save them from complications. Health care facilities across the country were inadequate and continue to be inadequate. The central and state governments need to work with speed and efficiency to expand and upgrade the public health care infrastructure for handling further surge under good institutional care.