India moves past Germany, France in COVID-19 caseload

India on Monday recorded a sharp surge in covid-19 infections with 7,720 fresh cases (196,741 in total) and 214 deaths (5,567 in total) being reported, as the country entered the first phase of an ‘unlock’ plan.
The country surpassed Germany and France, with covid-19 cases nearing 200,000, to hit the seventh spot among the countries worst hit by infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s live tracker of the disease.

The Union health ministry is expected to issue guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for further opening up of economic activities keeping the disease progression in mind, as India plans to further ease restrictions in non-containment areas.

“The guidelines will require much detailing and customization to ensure that they are clearly understood, adopted and practised widely. The key to keeping numbers from growing in the coming days will depend on the universal acceptance and compliance with physical distancing, use of face covering and hand washing,” said Dr Preeti Kumar, vice-president, health system support, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a public-private partnership initiative.

Face covers are important, especially as social distancing is difficult in most of India’s public, commercial and work spaces, Kumar pointed out. The country will need an effective and sustained mass public health campaign to inform and educate people on the necessity of using masks and address the growing issue of stigma, myths, and miscommunication around the highly infectious disease, she said.

“As a large number of people will either be asymptomatic or have a mild illness, their risk perception of this disease is low. It is critical that people understand that these precautions will help save their near ones and others from falling ill,” said Kumar.

Meanwhile, India’s recovery rate is increasing even as the case fatality is going down. The recovery rate in the country is progressively increasing and has reached 48.19% among covid-19 patients, the Union health ministry said on Monday. “The recovery rate on 18 May, was 38.29%. On 3 May, it was 26.59%. On 15 April, it was 11.42%. During the last 24 hours 4,835 covid-19 patients have been cured. So far, a total of 91,818 patients have been cured of the disease,” the government said.

A steady decline can be also seen in the case fatality rate in the country, it said. “The case fatality rate is 2.83%. On 18 May, the case fatality rate was 3.15%. On 3 May, it was 3.25 %. On 15 April, it was 3.30 %. At present, there are 93,322 active cases in the country which are under active medical supervision,” the ministry said.

However, there may be peak of covid-19 cases in June and July, according to government officials and public health experts who said that the country needs to be well prepared to handle the crisis.

“Keeping in mind that the number of cases in June and July would be higher, our focus on decreasing deaths should be more. Medical colleges should start and postgraduate and junior faculty should be in the forefront to manage cases along with teleconferencing with senior faculty daily for every patient,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, professor and head, department of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

As India along with other countries is recording deaths of healthcare workers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for maintaining data of their deaths as well.

“One of the tragedies of this pandemic has been it’s impact on HCWs (healthcare workers)—too many lives lost. We need to ensure they are protected and also that countries collect and report data on #COVID-19 infections and deaths among frontline workers,” Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO, tweeted on Monday.

“More testing will lead to more detection and a more strategic containment and mitigation strategy. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. Local communities need to understand risk factors and find solutions,” she said. – Livemint

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