India on Monday recorded a sharp surge in Covid-19 cases as the country entered into ‘Unlock 1’. With Covid-19 cases nearing 2,00,000, India surpassed Germany and France, climbing to the seventh position from eight among the countries worst-hit by coronavirus infection, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s live tracker of the disease.
As India is planning further easing of restrictions in non-containment areas in coming days, the union health ministry is expected to issue guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for further opening up of the economic activities keeping the disease progression in mind.
“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 on health.
Highlighting that face covers are important, especially as distancing is difficult in most of India’s public, commercial and work spaces, Kumar said that the country will need an effective and sustained mass public health campaign to inform and educate people on the necessity of using masks, while also addressing growing issue of stigma, myths and miscommunication around the highly infectious disease. “Since the 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 and dear ones and others from falling ill,” said Kumar.
While the number of coronavirus infections is increasing every day in the country, two specific positive trends have also emerged. India’s recovery rate is increasing on one hand and the case fatality is going down on the other. The union health ministry on Monday said that recovery rate in the country is progressively increasing and has reached 48.19% amongst Covid-19 patients. “The recovery rate on 18th May was 38.29 %. On 3rd May it was 26.59 %. On 15th 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.
The union health ministry also said that a steady decline can be also seen in the case fatality rate in the country. “The case fatality rate is 2.83%. On 18th May, the case fatality rate was 3.15%. On 3rd May, it was 3.25 %. On 15th April it was 3.30 %. Presently there are 93,322 active cases in the country which are under active medical supervision,” the union health ministry said.
However, as per the government officials, there may be peak of covid-19 cases in June and July, public health experts have said that the country needs to be well prepared to handle the crisis. “Keeping in mind that number of cases in June and July would be higher that our focus on decreasing deaths should be more. Medical college should start and postgraduate and junior faculty should be on forefront to manage the case 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 death of healthcare workers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for maintaining data for their deaths as well. “One of the tragedies of this pandemic has been it’s impact on HCWs – too many lives lost. We need to ensure they are protected and also that countries collect and report data on #COVID19 infections and deaths among Frontline workers,” Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO tweeted on Monday.
The union health ministry said that the testing capacity has increased in the country through 472 Government and 204 private laboratories (total 676 laboratories). Cumulatively, 38,37,207 samples have been tested so far for covid-19, whereas, 1,00,180 samples were tested on Sunday. “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,” Swaminathan said in another tweet. – Livemint