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India coronavirus dispatch: Disruption in healthcare has dire consequences

Eighty per cent Indians asymptomatic: An internal analysis by Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) has found that 80 per cent of cases in India are asymptomatic. Among the symptomatic, 25.93 per cent reported fever, 17.18 per cent had cough, 7.83 per cent said they had a sore throat and 5.54 per cent complained of breathlessness. However, the largest proportion of symptoms reported were loss of smell, gastrointestinal issues and body ache. The 80 per cent asymptomatic figure, however, is a major cause of concern as these are the people driving the pandemic. The figure arrived through the analysis is higher than what was estimated earlier.

Bengal’s care network: Realising the need for consultancy services, residents of Kolkata set up a Covid care network that provides just that. From doctors’ expert advice on those with symptoms to counselling for those suffering from stress, the network has been catering to a variety of needs. In the city it was noticed that waiting time for tests could go up to a month. Further, there was reluctance among those with symptoms to get the test done. Those who were found positive, had to suffer ostracisation. As a Covid-19 national task force member says, half the fight against the pandemic is the battle against unscientific information and panic among the public.

Karnataka’s law exams: The chorus against Karnataka State Law University (KSLU) announcement to hold exams across 106-affiliated colleges has grown louder. Students and opposition leaders have opposed the move. Students say those who have returned to different parts of the country amid the pandemic will now be forced to travel back to the state just to answer the exams. Plus the offline exams will also mean the students will be risking their lives to answer them, they say. Former CM Siddaramaiah also pointed out the fact that many college hostels have been converted to Covid care centres. There have been similar demands from students and parties across the country.

Comment

Remdesivir RCT: A randomised clinical trial (RCT) of remdesivir in patients suffering from moderate Covid-19 was published recently. The study found that, patients administered the drug for five days were 65 per cent more likely to achieve better clinical scores compared to those who received the standard care. However, there was no improvement with 10 days of remdesivir. Further, no reduction in hospitalisation, mortality or fall in duration of oxygen requirement was noticed. Besides, the test itself has glaring holes, as the writer of this column points out. He says that the trial showcases the issues with trials such as this one. They usually end with unimpressive and vague results, just like this one did. The fact that it was sponsored by a major pharma player doesn’t add to its credibility, either.

Dignity amid Covid-19: About 88 per cent of the elderly in India live with their children. Their risk of contracting the virus from family members remains high. Besides, social distancing is not as easy for them since they depend on others for access to health care. For the ones who don’t live with their families, access to food, water and other basic necessities may also be hampered severely. Further, only 7 per cent of the elderly in India have smartphones. This creates issues of access to credible information and essential services. It’s not just the Covid-related services and data that is key to this segment of society as a large number of them also have other underlying health problems that need attention. Precarious work and low incomes among the group also implies that an overwhelmingly large number of them are dependent on others for economic needs as well.

South Indian doctors: While South India enjoys the reputation for having better healthcare than the rest of the country, the states are currently on the back foot. Health workers across the region have been demanding better working conditions and this clamour has grown over time. Around 200 doctors have died due to Covid. Of these, 43 are from Tamil Nadu. The state has also seen a strike by medical professionals. Some allege that doctors have been transferred several hundreds of kilometres away from home as punishment postings. Further, post graduates have been posted on Covid duty without being regularised. A similar state of affairs has been noticed in Karnataka where incidents of violence against doctors were also reported. Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh Junior Doctors’ Association has decided to boycott duties which could lead to a crisis.

Women’s health: An unintended consequence of the pandemic was the disruption of womens’ health care services. Among other things, access to contraception and abortion services were upended. A report says that around 2 million women missed out on services amid the pandemic, of which 1.3 million were in India alone. This can lead to an increase in maternal mortality, unwanted pregnancies and domestic violence. Despite India listing abortions as essential services, lack of transport meant most were unable to access it. Further, a study across 6 states showed a severe shortage of medical abortion drugs in pharmacies. Ensuring uninterrupted access to counselling, contraceptive devices and care is essential for safeguarding women’s reproductive rights.- Business Standard

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