India can’t fight Covid with such planning

by Emma

Unless these are corrected, the damage will be even worse than it is right now, especially since it is not clear this is the last Covid wave, either in India or overseas.

Given the reproduction rate, or the average of new infections caused by a single infected person, of Covid-19 in India is 1.48 right now, a number not seen in the country for a year, it is unlikely the current rates of 2+ lakh new cases a day are going to subside anytime soon. Keep in mind that even in the last peak in September, when the cases were near one lakh a day, the reproduction rate was under one (see graphic).

India can’t fight Covid with such planning

And while there is little doubt the general level of carelessness – after a year of Covid-19 – and the massive election rallies and community celebrations of festivals like Kumbh have played a significant role in the second surge, even greater roles have probably been played by the new strains like the double mutant and the South African and UK ones that are very infective. While the government continues to obfuscate on their role, a news report in The Indian Express quoted data from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, which showed that 61% of the Maharashtra samples were genome-sequenced from January to March had the double mutation (https://bit.ly/2Qpc5CO).

Whole-genome sequencing is critical to know whether the virus is mutating, and then looking for vaccination and other solutions for this, including treatment protocols, a Down To Earth investigation (https://bit.ly/3dl3hqs) found that India is sequencing less than one percent of the samples that it is supposed to, primarily due to lack of funds and associated infrastructure. While the 10 research labs that are supposed to do this can process around 30,000 samples a month, if India averages two lakh cases a day, it needs to sequence 10,000 per day based on the 5% sample size that the Indian genome protocol has laid down.

While top union ministers can choose to berate opposition-led states while ignoring the BJP-ruled ones that are faring as severely if even something so critical is not being done, it is any surprise that infections are growing as rapidly as they are, causing the country’s health infrastructure to collapse and for states like Maharashtra to impose stringent lockdowns? Keep in mind that, since a current lot of vaccines don’t work as well against the new strains like the double mutation, even if India were to vaccinate everyone in Maharashtra, it may not help; amazingly, the government has still not come out with the results its assessment of the efficacy of existing vaccines on the new strains.

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