How Healthy People Are ‘Gifted’ COVID-19

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It should be clear to us that COVID-19 is spreading in Goa due to violation of social distancing inside the vehicles and due to air conditioned situation

Nandkumar M Kamat

Have you wondered how healthy people who take all the precautions like wearing three layered or N95 masks, using sanitizers, keeping social distance are getting infected with Covid-19 after escaping such infection since the March lockdown?

The answer is not difficult- it is the irresponsible behaviour of others- familiar people, friends or overconfident relatives. Recently I had a difficult time with a friend,  a senior citizen who had come to pick me up in his AC vehicle. When he saw that I was sitting behind him he felt agitated. He might have got worried about his image- what people would think if he drives someone sitting behind. Such false prestige issues are responsible for breach of SOP of Covid-19 prevention.

I categorically asked him whether he had more experience than me in virology and told him that the maximum possible distance in an AC vehicle needs to be maintained between two passengers. But he was not convinced despite we both wearing masks. I told him to switch off the AC and lower the windows because in closed air conditioned spaces it has been found that the Covid-19 droplet borne particles spread faster and infect even those with the masks.

It should be clear to us that Covid-19 is spreading in Goa due to violation of social distancing inside the vehicles. Centrally cooled shopping centres and malls which lack special ultrafilters may be acting as superspreaders and the state government may not have understood the danger of permitting such operations in air conditioned premises where large numbers of people gather. It is surprising that government and private meetings are still being held in air-conditioned premises. The temperature of such premises is perfect for the new Coronavirus to remain viable and infectious for a longer period of time. It is exactly opposite in well ventilated and aerated premises. Better ventilation leads to quick dispersal and infinite dilution of infectious virus particles.

So far the government has not encouraged the cured Covid-19 patients to tell their stories publicly. That would have alerted the non infected healthy individuals. In this article let me inform readers about how very healthy and normal highly educated individuals can be ‘gifted’ with Covid-19 due to risky and irresponsible behaviour of others they came in contact with.

The cases refer to two local scientists who know everything about Covid-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic they had escaped infection. In first case the scientist was constantly in touch with me on many scientific matters and we routinely discussed the pandemic situation and ways to stay safe and secure.

Suddenly all communication from him stopped and I became curious to know about his condition. He informed me that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and has preferred home isolation. After he recovered, I questioned him about the source of his infection and what he told me needs to be a warning for all healthy citizens in the state. He had visited the air-conditioned office of a friend for some work without knowing his health status. He was wearing the mask and the friend sitting behind the desk had a mask. The scientist found the friend somewhat uneasy and distressed and coughing while talking. So he asked- are you alright? The friend said that he was feeling a bit uneasy at that moment. The scientist told him to go home and take a rest and after a few minutes he came out of the AC cabin. His interaction had lasted for a few minutes. After two days the scientist got a message that his friend who was coughing had developed a fever and had tested Covid-19 positive.

Although asymptomatic till that point my scientist friend decided to wait for a few days and then opted for a  RT-PCR test  which came out positive. His home isolation then began. He said he suspects infection was picked up from what was circulating in that air-conditioned cabin. This is how healthy people can be gifted with Covid-19.

In another case another friend, a field ecologist  had to accompany a senior government officer for a survey. Both were supposed to visit the site of inspection in their separate vehicles as my ecologist friend didn’t want to take the risk of travelling together in a small space of a single vehicle. But at the common meeting point the officer who was wearing the mask insisted that only a single vehicle was sufficient to travel and the ecologist need not use his own vehicle. Much against his wish ecologist, armed with a triple layered mask and sanitizer agreed. But he was feeling uneasy as the officer was coughing intermittently. ‘No, nothing is wrong with me, you drive’ the officer said to my ecologist friend who was not convinced about his health status. Throughout the journey he had the doubt in his mind that something was not just right with that officer. The officer was obviously overconfident. After their work was over the next day the ecologist was informed that the officer who had accompanied him was suspected to be infected with Covid-19.

Wish, I had permission to present the details of hellish experience through which my ecologist friend had to go through as he had to get himself and family members checked after three days. He was not surprised that he was tested Covid-19 positive. Then his wife too tested positive. For a small vulnerable family with no sympathy or voluntary assistance from neighbours the home isolation experience was the supreme test of courage and perseverance.

After recovery my ecologist friend remarked- ‘I took all precautions since the first lockdown to remain uninfected. I would not have got it. It was gifted to me by the irresponsible officer who should have sat at home instead of moving around.’

This is a real practical experience which shows that thousands of overconfident symptomatic and asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers are irresponsibly stepping out of the house and “gifting” the infection to normal and healthy individuals. They may be people who insist that you should sit with them on front seat of the vehicle or those who agree to meet you in an air-conditioned office or those who despite feeling sick insist on working with you. More horror storied of how healthy people are infected would come out if media probes the source of infection from the cured patients. Both my scientist friends have advised healthy people not to step out of the house or admit any visitors and avoid air-conditioned common premises.