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Coronavirus – A Man Made Disaster?

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A new virus belonging to the Coronavirus family named as novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV has claimed over 1,65,093 lives globally. More than two million cases have been reported all over the globe. Research is on but very little is known about the disease or how exactly it can be contained. WHO has officially declared the Coronavirus Outbreak as a Pandemic. The virus has, in fact, reached almost all countries of the world.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that are often the source of respiratory infections, including the common cold. Most of the viruses are common among animals, but sometimes, an animal-based coronavirus mutates and successfully finds a human host.
According to the World Health Organization, during previous outbreaks due to other coronaviruses, human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets or objects making contact, suggesting that the transmission mode of the 2019-nCoV can be identical.
The symptoms may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Antibiotics do not work against such viral pneumonia and there are no vaccines against them. In addition to this, the virus is contagious even during incubation, that is even before a patient exhibits any symptoms. This characteristic amplifies transmissibility. Due to this, travel bans across China are initiated and the literal isolation of Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, has been done.

How Infectious is COVID-19

Scientists use a measure called “basic reproduction number” to measure how a disease spreads through a population also known as R0. This number indicated how many people each infected person will infect on average.  R0 measures how infectious any disease is and helps governments and health organisations in formulating the strategy to tackle the disease.
If R0 is less than 1 then the disease spread will eventually fizzle out. If it is greater than one then, one infected person on average can infect one other person and so on the chain is formed. Currently, this number R0 for COVID-19 is estimated at about 2.2, which implies that a single infected person will infect about 2.2 others, on average.

Coronavirus – The Origin

Diseases that pass from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. They are rare. The chief concern with them is that since they are new to humans, the human body does not have any immunity to them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, about a billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from zoonoses, i.e, diseases and infections naturally transmitted between people and vertebrate animals. Some 60% of emerging infectious diseases globally are zoonoses. Of the over 30 new human pathogens detected over the last three decades, 75% originated in animals.
Coronavirus is one of them. It is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that was involved in the illegal sale of wildlife. According to WHO, wherever there is close mixing of humans and animals, especially the unregulated handling of blood and other body products, as happens for example in China’s animal markets, there are greater chances of transmission of a virus from animals to humans, and its mutation to adapt to the human body.

Coronavirus Outbreak – A Manmade Disaster

Conspiracy Theories

Coronavirus originated in China and was endemic to the country for the first couple of months of its outbreak. The country, however, failed to warn the World Health Organisation about the virus, its outbreak and its lethality in time, which resulted in its spread across the globe. The doctor who first warned his government of the coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang was summoned by the authorities and was made to sign an affidavit acknowledging his crime with a promise of never engaging in any such rumour spreading activities in the future.
President Donald Trump has in fact raised the prospect that China deliberately caused the COVID-19 outbreak that’s killed over 39,000 Americans and said there should be consequences if the country is found to be “knowingly responsible.”
French virologist and medicine Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier has made explosive revelations regarding the origin of the coronavirus, saying that the deadly virus was manufactured in a laboratory in China’s Wuhan. The Nobel Laureate while speaking at a TV interview with C News said, that elements of the HIV-1 retrovirus, which he co-discovered in 1983, can be found in the genome of the Novel Coronavirus. He also said elements of the “malaria germ” – the parasite Plasmodium falciparum – can also be seen in the virus’s genome. In another podcast interview with Pourquoi Docteur, he said that the virus had escaped in an “industrial accident” from the Wuhan city laboratory when Chinese scientists were attempting to develop a vaccine against HIV.

Ignorance Among People

When the virus reached Europe, people failed to understand its gravity and did not follow the social distancing norms. The virus kept spreading claiming a large number of lives across the continent. European citizens when realised the magnitude, found out, that they were too late. The disaster had already hit the continent. Which was why they came to social media to warn the world about the danger of the virus.

Coronavirus – A Manmade Disaster in India

In India, the virus has slowly but gradually started leaving a mark. In an effort to defeat the virus before it starts a catastrophe, the government of India announced a lockdown of 21days. It asked the citizens to consider the lockdown as a curfew and restrain for stepping out of the house unless it is absolutely essential. The people were asked to work from home. Old shows such as Mahabharat, Ramayana, Shaktiman, Dekh Bhai Dekh were shown on DD National so that more and more people are tempted to stay indoors.
Despite the legal lockdown, there were some people who defied it, which resulted in the quick spreading of the disease throughout the country. A Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation event took place in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz Mosque. The devotees came by the thousands from all corners of India and beyond. When they left, they unknowingly carried the coronavirus with them. The gathering is emerging as India’s first “super-spreader” event, complicating efforts to control rising infections in this nation of 1.3 billion people.
More than 4000 confirmed cases across the country — stretching from Tamil Nadu in the south to Kashmir in the north — have been linked to people who attended events at the Tablighi Jamaat centre near a historic shrine in India’s capital, according to the government. The infections, which represent about 30 per cent of India’s total cases, have sparked a frantic effort to track down anyone who attended the recent meetings.

South Korea and Iran

In Asia, South Korea was one of the most affected countries in the world with more than 10,000 cases and 200+ deaths. Initially, the majority of these cases are linked to followers of  Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony which accounts for more than 70% of the cases. The church has now shut down its Daegu branch and services in other regions would be held online or in isolation at home.
Iran is another country that suffered from major casualties. The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus soared to more than 82,000 in a matter of days. More than 5000 people have already lost their lives.

Europe grappling with Coronavirus

European countries have been affected tremendously because of the outbreak. Italy has been the worst affected country among them. Over 23,000 people have died in Italy so far with almost 178,972 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country. The virus has spread to the country with the economy of the country taking a huge hit.
In Spain, the total number of cases have reached to 198,674 across the country with more than 20,000 deaths. In France, the confirmed number of cases has reached 152,894 with about 19,718 deaths. Germany is faring better comparatively with number of deaths being around 4600 from total of 145,742 cases. In the UK, there are about 120,067 confirmed cases with more than 16,000 deaths.

USA – The newest Hotspot

The United States passed 764,265 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to statistics by Worldometer. It has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths of any country in the world. So far, about 40,565 deaths in the country.
In lieu of the failing economy during such distress, President Donald Trump announced $19 billion relief for farmers amid COVID-19 epidemic. Trump told a press conference that the government “will be implementing a $19 billion relief program for our great farmers and ranchers as they cope with the fallout of the global pandemic.”
President Trump has also announced that the United States would halt funding to the World Health Organization, the global health agency that has been a leading voice in coordinating the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The president said this has been done because WHO had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.” “They’ve been wrong about a lot of things,” Trump said. “We’re going to put a hold on money [sent] to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it.”

Guidelines to Prevent the infection

The WHO and UNICEF have recommended people to do regular handwashing, cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, and avoid close contact with anyone suspected of being infected or showing respiratory illness symptoms. People in public places are asked to wear face masks.

India’s response to the outbreak

In India, 17,874 confirmed cases of the virus have been detected across the country with 568 deaths so far. In response to this, the country has been taking the following steps to combat COVID19.

India revives SAARC to fight Coronavirus

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, chaired a high-level meeting with the heads of all SAARC member countries to formulate a strategy to fight this global pandemic. India pledged $10 million towards a special COVID19 emergency fund and put took steps to form a rapid action team comprising of doctors and other healthcare professionals. The SAARC nations praised PM Modi’s initiative in taking a lead in the region to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Pakistan created major controversy by raising the issue of Kashmir at the video conference meant to discuss the response of SAARC nations towards Coronavirus.
“As developing countries, all of us have significant challenges in terms of access to healthcare facilities,” PM Modi said. “As developing countries, all of us have significant challenges in terms of access to healthcare facilities. Our people-to-people ties are ancient, and our societies are deeply inter-connected. Therefore, we must all prepare together, we must all act together, and we must all succeed together,” he said. “We can respond best by coming together, not growing apart – collaboration, not confusion, preparation not panic,” said PM Modi.

Travel Ban to affected countries

All tourist visas suspended until April 15 and incoming travellers will be quarantined. According to the statement,” All travellers, including Indian nationals, “arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.” The government has strongly advised people to cancel non-essential travel.

Coronavirus in Maharashtra

Maharashtra has the highest number of coronavirus cases with 4483 people testing positive for COVID-19 and 223 deaths on April 20, 2020. The Maharashtra government has shut all malls, gyms, cinema halls, and swimming pools in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai, and Pimpri-Chinchwad in light of the increasing cases of coronavirus in the state. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, speaking in the state’s Assembly, also said that the government has declared the spread of COVID-19 in the five districts as an ‘epidemic’. The health minister Rajesh Tope said that the order does not apply to grocery shops which sell commodities. According to PTI, the state government also announced that all exams up to Class 9, if underway, will be postponed. However, the board exams for Class 10 and 12 will continue.

Coronavirus in Kerala

Kerala was praised highly for the way they responded to coronavirus as it was the first places in India to have coronavirus positive cases. The first three patients were successfully treated and discharged from the hospital. With about 400 positive cases, Kerala has successfully managed to contain the spread by shedding its position of the second-highest number of cases in the country. A lot of people from Kerala work in the gulf and the majority of positive cases have had travel history in the Middle East. The government has been proactive in responding to this epidemic and has had major success in fighting diseases with their battle against dangerous Nipah Virus earning them plaudits in 2018.

Coronavirus in Delhi

The capital of India has the second-highest number of positive cases of coronavirus with 2003 cases and 45 deaths so far. The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to impose a complete ban on social, religious and political gatherings of more than 50 people in the national capital. Kejriwal asked people to postpone weddings if they can to contain the virus. We have already shut schools, colleges, swimming pools so far. Today, it has been decided to order gyms, night clubs and spas also to close as a precautionary measure,” said Kejriwal. Quarantine facilities have been arranged at three Delhi hotels – Lemon Tree, Red Fox and IBIS.

Coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh

UP has 1100 positive cases and 17 deaths so far.
“The Uttar Pradesh government has taken all possible steps, as advised by the Central government, to fight the spread of coronavirus. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that prevention is better than cure and we are following the same and spreading awareness about it,” said CM Adityanath.
“We are conducting training for the doctors and para-medical staff. More than 1 lakh Anganwadi and Asha workers have been trained as well as four thousand doctors. UNICEF and WHO are also helping us in the training,” he said. “We have 1,268-bed isolations wards as of now and it can be expanded if the need arises. We have also assured the availability of masks, gloves, and gowns in each district,” said Adityanath. He created a major stir by announcing that the Ala Hazrat Haj House will be converted temporarily into a 500-bed isolation centre to prevent the spreading of infection. We have closed all the schools till March 22 in which exams are not going being held and have ordered the closure of malls, multiplexes in Gautam Buddha Nagar, Agra, Lucknow, Ghaziabad, other districts along the Nepal border. Mass gatherings should also be avoided in these areas,” Adityanath said.
The government has declared that students of classes 1-8 of all government-run primary schools will be promoted without appearing for examinations to contain the spread of Coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh.

Coronavirus in other parts of India

Haryana has had 251 cases with 3 deaths. Karnataka has had 395 positive cases with 16 deaths and Telangana has had 858 positive cases and 21 deaths with the state governments taking measures to contain the spread by announcing the closure of major public facilities.
Below is the list of total cases in India and state-wise impact of the epidemic, as per Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. ( as on 24.04.2020)
S. No. Name of State / UT Total Confirmed cases (Including 77 foreign Nationals) Cured/Discharged/
Migrated
Death
1 Andaman and Nicobar Islands 22 11 0
2 Andhra Pradesh 895 141 27
3 Arunachal Pradesh 1 1 0
4 Assam 36 19 1
5 Bihar 153 46 2
6 Chandigarh 27 14 0
7 Chhattisgarh 36 28 0
8 Delhi 2376 808 50
9 Goa 7 7 0
10 Gujarat 2624 258 112
11 Haryana 272 156 3
12 Himachal Pradesh 40 18 1
13 Jammu and Kashmir 427 92 5
14 Jharkhand 53 8 3
15 Karnataka 445 145 17
16 Kerala 447 324 3
17 Ladakh 18 14 0
18 Madhya Pradesh 1699 203 83
19 Maharashtra 6430 840 283
20 Manipur 2 2 0
21 Meghalaya 12 0 1
22 Mizoram 1 0 0
23 Odisha 90 33 1
24 Puducherry 7 3 0
25 Punjab 277 65 16
26 Rajasthan 1964 230 27
27 Tamil Nadu 1683 752 20
28 Telangana 960 197 24
29 Tripura 2 1 0
30 Uttarakhand 47 24 0
31 Uttar Pradesh 1510 206 24
32 West Bengal 514 103 15
Total number of confirmed cases in India 23077* 4749 718
Way Forward for India
Infectious diseases including those of the zoonotic variety are on the rise in India. In addition, regions in India suffer from seasonal outbreaks of dengue, malaria and influenza strains. In this context, the nation-wide disease surveillance programme needs to be strengthened in the country. Given the growth potential of India’s biotech sector, it is time to put in place a robust public-private partnership model that can transform the health services sector in the country, covering disease surveillance, diagnostic kit availability and accelerated vaccine development.

CSR Educating People on Coronavirus in India

After three people were tested positive of Corona-virus in Kerala, it was crucial to lend a helping hand to the people of Wayanad district and educate them on the disease outbreak and its symptoms. Keeping this in mind, Aster Volunteers along with DM WIMS, department of Community Medicine conducted a series of massive health education programme in St Joseph’s school, Meppadi district. More than 500 students from Meppadi and nearby villages attended the educational programme on ‘Epidemiology of Coronavirus and its prevention’. In all, 10 sessions were held for the school children to educate them on the outbreak of the coronavirus disease and advisories on measures to protect one’s health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.