Let’s clear the air on Covid-19

It should be clear that for a variety of reasons, India has been not as badly affected by Covid-19 as most other nations.

 |  5-minute read |   18-05-2020
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I have been as concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic as anyone else for obvious reasons. However, I find that many of my countrymen seem to be somewhat overwhelmed by the happenings that are narrated day in and day out by the media. There is a preponderance of news – perhaps unintended – that is likely to generate fear and even depression.

I have been delivering webinars – to large audiences – almost on a daily basis where I have attempted to demystify facets of the virus. At the end of each webinar, I receive overwhelming feedback from my audiences indicating that a load has been lifted off their minds. I am also somewhat baffled at the various kinds of unfounded fears that people harbour. I thought it worth my while to try and clear up the air around the virus.

Reassuring statistics

It should be clear that for a variety of reasons, India has been not as badly affected as most other nations. Some simple facts are in order to explain this context. The virus has essentially been present in India from around the first week of March and so it has been present here for about 70 days.

main_covid19-india_r_051820101730.jpgThere is a good reason for India to be optimistic in the fight against Covid-19. Let us stay that way. (Photo: Reuters)

What is being reported is the rise in the number of infections on a daily basis. Most people are missing the point that for the past few days, the rate of increase in the number of infections has declined a little. In fact at the moment, the average rate of increase in infections, for the last seven days stands at 6.1 per cent. Contrast it with the fact that it stands at 6.5 per cent for the previous seven days. More interestingly, the average rate of increase in deaths for the last seven days is at 4.7 per cent, in contrast with nearly 7 per cent for the previous seven days. Also, these rates of increase in deaths have been declining for the last three days.

In addition, the doubling rate for the number of infections is also around ten days. This also must be contrasted with the fact that in New York, things began to ease up when the doubling rate reached about seven days from three days.

Other comparisons

There is another figure that must be noticed. The total number of deaths due to the virus in the USA stands at a much higher figure than the total number of infections in India. To put this in the right perspective, it must be realised that the population of India is nearly four times of the population of the USA and yet the number of infections in India is far less than the number of deaths in the USA due to the virus. The chances of an Indian citizen dying in a road accident are far higher than dying from Covid-19 because in the year gone by more than 1,50,000 Indians died in road accidents. Coronavirus has not even caused 2,500 deaths yet and I am willing to wager that the total number of deaths due to the virus, in India, shall not exceed 8,000. I am basing this inference on the data trends that I have noticed so far.

One more statistic is in order. According to the data available, last year every day about 1,500 people died in India due to TB. In other words, almost 4,50,000 people died of TB in India last year and comparable numbers of Indians have been dying of TB for years in India. Thus the chances of an Indian dying of TB are far higher than the chances of dying from Covid-19. I must also add that last year, in the USA, anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 people died of the flu. The year before, the number of people who died of the seasonal flu in the USA was even higher.

Let me also add that one of the reasons that India seems to have been not so badly affected by the virus may be due to the BCG vaccine. There is a very strong correlation that has emerged from an examination of data for 178 countries. The findings indicate that the death rates are very low in countries that have had a vigorous BCG vaccination programme. India has had a mandatory BCG vaccination programme since the 1970s. This may be one of the factors responsible for the low numbers of deaths in India.

Another factor that we in India could use to our advantage is the correlation that seems to exist between high levels of Vitamin D and the ability to fight the virus. Given that we have, in the summer season plenty of sunlight, I urge all Indians to get at least 20 minutes of sunlight on their bare skin early in the morning on a daily basis.

Hope for the future

Finally, let me add that we must put our faith in human ingenuity. Some of the smartest people in the world, including several in India, are working round the clock to tackle the virus. This is being done by various means including efforts to develop vaccines as well as other therapies. For instance, a few days ago some very encouraging news has emerged from Israel. It seems that scientists there have succeeded in creating a monoclonal antibody that shall prove extremely effective in destroying the virus inside the human body. Also, these monoclonal antibodies can be produced in huge quantities and in a very short period of time. Similar news has emerged from Italy. The team at Oxford University is working to develop what seems to be a very promising vaccine, which should be out in the market in September in India. And in our country too, trials are on to use the BCG vaccine to fight the virus. So the point that I am trying to make is that there is a good reason for optimism. Let us stay that way.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why there is hope in Covid-19 numbers for India


Dinesh Singh Dinesh Singh @dineshsinghedu

The writer is former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University and currently Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Houston, USA

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