India Coronavirus Dispatch: Why is mortality dipping even as cases grow?

New test: Researchers from Delhi’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) claim to have developed a new method of Covid-19 testing. They say it’s cheaper, faster and more accurate than RT-PCR test, the gold standard for coronavirus diagnosis in India. The Delhi team claims their test can yield results in 30 minutes, compared to RT-PCR’s 24-hour time period. Further, the team says the test does not require a bio-safety lab unlike the RT-PCR test and hence can be performed at public places like airports. The team has now approached ICMR for approval. IGIB says its method is more ‘robust’ when it comes to handling testing samples as well. Even the sensitivity of the test, they claim, is more than that of RT-PCR. Read more here.

Piling waste: In Mumbai, Covid-19 now has an additional consequence for the public to be worried about: mounting waste. The city generated 3 times the daily average Covid-19 waste in July as compared April and nearly 42 times in comparison to 12 days of the pandemic in March. Covid-19 waste includes gloves, PPE, masks, tissues, swabs and syringes. Covid-related waste is now at the same level as the biomedical waste generated by the city during pre-pandemic times. The city has been segregating Covid-19 waste from other forms of trash and is further separating waste generated from containment zones. Residents, meanwhile, have been complaining about haphazard handling of the Covid waste. Multiple complaints and even a PIL have been registered over the issue of dumping and burning of Corona waste in and around the city. Read more here.

Uttarakhand’s returnees: Over 330,000 residents have returned to Uttarakhand since the pandemic hit. About 80.68 per cent of them came home from other states, while 18.11 per cent migrated within districts of the state. Some among them have decided to take up agriculture after their urban businesses came to a halt. With limited employment opportunities in the hill state, even those who have been laid-off by MNCs are now planning to work on plantations to earn a living. Uttarakhand CM, meanwhile, has said he wants to ensure people do not migrate again. “We have launched schemes one after another to turn this disaster into an opportunity,” he says. Uttarakhand, after UP, witnessed large-scale and rapid migration since the 2000s. The big question now is whether the state, especially the rural stretches, will be able to retain its returnees. Read more here.


Teacher’s role: On Teacher’s Day, Avijit Pathak wonders how teachers can re-define their role in the current crisis. He says academicians are now doing whatever the bureaucracy has instructed them to do and in the process have reduced education to a virtual transaction that focuses only on completing the official syllabus and conducting tests. He asks if teachers should merely use this moment defined by economic distress and a public health crisis to prepare pupils for exams or try to engage with them as communicators and healers. A teacher of that sort is hard to find so you’re more likely to see an exhausted individual trying to impose some kind of an artificial order under the guise of education instead. Cynics, he says, would want education to go on pretty much the same way even amid the pandemic. He wonders why even in a puzzling moment there’s very little thought put into how we can redefine the role of a teacher. Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

Lower mortality: Even as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country, the virus-related mortality seems to be on the decline. After May, states across the country have been reporting lower mortalities. A look at past epidemics can show that this is an established pattern. Even during swine flu, the first few cases were characterised by harsh symptoms and the initial phase saw high number of deaths. Over time, however, the cases grew milder and mortality dipped. Secondly, this could also be due to better understanding among doctors about the right response to the virus. Over time, medical experts have developed an understanding of the virus’ behaviour and the right treatment modalities to combat it. Third, the public has been made adequately aware of the pandemic and preventive measures that need to be taken by individuals. Besides, in the initial stages the pandemic spread to dense areas in urban stretches and is now picking up in hinterlands which are not as densely populated. Further, this decline in mortality is not unique to India. A similar trend has been noticed in other countries as well. Read more here.

Can masks prevent Flu as well? The general public is now sufficiently aware of measures to be adopted to safeguard oneself against the virus. With flu season around the corner, experts have been wondering what the effect of masks and social distancing will be on general flu rates. This is crucial as concerns of Covid and influenza co-infections are abound. Region, among other factors, will cause flu rates to vary widely. Secondly, a lot depends on educational institutions and how they’ll respond to the situation when they reopen. Some experts suggest getting a flu shot to cut the risk altogether. Read more here.