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Coronavirus – A Man Made Disaster?

कोरोना खुशखबरी - जहां प्लाज्मा थेरेपी से जगी उम्मीद वहीं ये राज्य हुए कोरोना फ्री
Coronavirus or more popularly known as COVID-19 has rocked the whole world with its large number of infections and fatality rate. The virus has caused more than 3 million deaths across the globe and infected over 141 million people. In India, there have been over 15 million cases officially, and about 179,000 casualties. It has been predicted that these numbers are highly skewed and that the real numbers can easily be at least 10 times more than the official figure.

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 have been imposed across the world.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The year 2020 was considered to be one of the toughest year of modern times. The entire world remained in a state of lockdown throughout the year. The transportation was stopped which induced wastage of products on one hand and deficiency of the same on the other hand. Millions of people lost their jobs during this time, as social distancing was required to contain the spread of the virus. This lead to a major economic crash across the world. In order to contain the havoc created by the pandemic, various pharma companies across the world working rapidly towards discovering the vaccine for the virus.
Multiple vaccines have emerged across the world. India has in fact acted as a leader in manufacturing the vaccine and reaching it to different countries across the world.

New Variants of COVID-19

The discovery of the vaccine should have ideally led to the spread of the virus get under the control. However, this has not happened. This is because variants have emerged of novel coronavirus independently in several countries, and the latest research indicates that the virus is changing quickly (mutation) and it may continue to develop towards evading currently available vaccines.
The latest of the variant is the UK variant and the India variant which are spread at a much greater speed and are proving more fatal than before.

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 2.5, which implies that a single infected person will infect about 2.5 others, on average.

How is COVID-19 Transmitted From Person to Person?

World Health Organisation (WHO) notified on April 30, 2021, that the COVID-19 virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. It said that the virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range). And people may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus when touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands.

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 was initially controlled in a much efficient manner. Although there was a large number of fatalities and cases, it was to be expected considering the fact that India has a high population density. However, eventually, as the new variants emerged, they got much more fatal and contagious. The second wave of COVID has been much more catastrophic for India than the first, even though the vaccine is out and is being administered to millions. The governments of different states and Union territories have once again started to impose lockdowns and even curfews.
Despite these measures, the virus continues to spread, which can be mostly accounted to anthropogenic activities in the following manner:
1. Masks Ignorance
Even after a year of staying in times of pandemic, and understanding the importance of masks, people continue to not take them seriously. People choose cloth-made fashionable masks over surgical masks, not taking into account that health is more important than fashion. Most of the times, masks are worn below the nose, completely defeating their purpose. People wear masks when stepping out of the house, but the masks are completely ignored or forgotten when outsiders enter the home as guests or even while the delivery of food or other parcels.
2. Vaccine Hesitancy
There has been a lot of speculation about the efficacy of the vaccine. People do not have enough faith in it, despite the fact that their role models and political leaders are all taking it. These people are not only wasting the resources but are also carriers of the virus that may end up spreading more and taking away the lives of more people.
3. Unessential Essential Goods and Services
It is impossible for people to sustain themselves without certain essential goods/services such as food, healthcare, etc. People use the excuse of the need for such services to carry about their work without considering the serious health they pose to themselves, their families and the society they live in.
4. Inefficiency in Administration
There has been a major mismatch observed between official order and actions on the ground. For example, people arriving from various middle easter countries are to go through institutional quarantine at the airport for at least a week, as soon as they land. However, reports have discovered that this has not been happening efficiently, and the people are in fact let go after paying a certain penalty.
5. Man – A Social Animal
One of the major problems in containing the spread of the virus is that man is a social animal. And the man is therefore unable to stay cooped up indoors and stay socially isolated. The people have had enough of staying isolated in the last year and are now taking unnecessary risks to attend social gatherings.
6. Opportunism in the supply chain of Essential medicines
As the virus is mutating into different forms, its capacity of transmission is also multiplying by the day. Amid this, there is an exponential rise in the demand for essential medicines, beds in the hospital, liquid oxygen and ventilators. However, the supply of these essentials is limited. This gap has given rise to black markets, wherein certain opportunistic people are hoarding the essentials provided at reasonable rates from the government or other charitable institutions and reselling them at very high prices in the black market. Doctors and many other healthcare workers across the country have been arrested for selling an essential drug Remdisivir for over 50,000 rupees in black whereas it is supplied by the government at around 900 rupees. People in dire need of the drug end up paying such high prices, despite poor financial conditions to save the lives of their loved ones. The poorest of the poor cannot afford this – and often end up suffering more. This inequity is not only magnifying the impact of the virus but is also widening the income gap even more.
7. Fake News, Fake Resources
Recently, several arrests have been made of people selling antibiotics or fake drugs in the name of Remdisivir, at high prices. Police have been able to confiscate lakhs of rupees from individuals claiming to be selling essential drugs, but are really selling fake medicines in its place. A similar scenario is observed in finding other resources as well. People are able to find so many sources when they tap into their social media accounts. But when one calls to verify, they realise, most of them are fake, or exhausted but not updated. Such misinformation spread by man is one of the major causes of the disastrous nature of the second wave of COVID in India.

Guidelines to Prevent the infection

One of the best ways to prevent oneself from getting infected with the COVID virus is to stay in isolation. However, it may not be practical or feasible for many. World Health Organisation has therefore recommended taking the following precautions to reduce the risk of getting infected:
– Follow local guidance: Check to see what national, regional and local authorities are advising so you have the most relevant information for where you are.
– Keep your distance: Stay at least 1 metre away from others, even if they don’t appear to be sick, since people can have the virus without having symptoms.
– Wear a mask:  Wear a well-fitting three-layer mask, especially when you can’t physically distance, or if you’re indoors. Clean your hands before putting on and taking off a mask.
– Read WHO’s Masks and COVID-19 Q&A and watch its videos on how to wear and make masks.
– Avoid crowded places, poorly ventilated, indoor locations and avoid prolonged contact with others. Spend more time outdoors than indoors.
– Ventilation is important: Open windows when indoors to increase the amount of outdoor air.
– Avoid touching surfaces, especially in public settings or health facilities, in case people infected with COVID-19 have touched them. Clean surfaces regularly with standard disinfectants.
– Frequently clean your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub. If you can, carry an alcohol-based rub with you and use it often.
– Cover your coughs and sneezes with a bent elbow or tissue, throwing used tissues into a closed bin right away. Then wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
– Get vaccinated: When it’s your turn, get vaccinated. Follow local guidance and recommendations about vaccination.

India’s response to the outbreak

In India, 15 million confirmed cases of the virus have been detected across the country with 5377 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 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 the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. ( as on 07 May 2021)
S. No. Name of State / UT Active Cases* Cured/Discharged/Migrated* Deaths**
Total Change since yesterday Cumulative Change since yesterday Cumulative Change since yesterday
1 Andaman and Nicobar Islands 225 5958 30  72
2 Andhra Pradesh 182329 11741  1037411 10141  8446 72 
3 Arunachal Pradesh 1858 82  17717 140  59
4 Assam 33176 1914  242980 2976  1531 46 
5 Bihar 115152 1672  435574 13364  3077 90 
6 Chandigarh 8420 57  38591 693  541
7 Chhattisgarh 131245 2034  675294 11600  9950 212 
8 Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu 1581 18  6917 195  4
9 Delhi 90629 1230  1164008 20028  18398 335 
10 Goa 29752 1788  77014 2023  1501 58 
11 Gujarat 147525 599  490412 13021  8035 123 
12 Haryana 115842 2417  452836 12246  5137 177 
13 Himachal Pradesh 27756 1854  89236 2043  1737 45 
14 Jammu and Kashmir 41666 2038  157283 2836  2562 52 
15 Jharkhand 60633 1101  205977 5740  3479 133 
16 Karnataka 517095 29787  1255797 18943  17212 328 
17 Kerala 391253 15249  1389515 27152  5628 63 
18 Ladakh 1432 62  13326 160  151
19 Lakshadweep 1146 17  2374 134  8
20 Madhya Pradesh 88614 630  542632 12965  6160 86 
21 Maharashtra 641281 2501  4227940 63842  73515 853 
22 Manipur 2991 334  30295 33  447 13 
23 Meghalaya 2351 216  16086 129  193
24 Mizoram 1779 137  5351 46  17
25 Nagaland 2245 207  12905 57  121
26 Odisha 74784 3650  423257 6854  2121 17 
27 Puducherry 12430 713  53296 779  901 18 
28 Punjab 66568 3561  339803 5126  9979 154 
29 Rajasthan 198010 1327  499376 16044  5182 161 
30 Sikkim 2256 206  6769 55  158
31 Tamil Nadu 131468 3157  1151058 21546  14974 195 
32 Telangana 73851 3276  405164 9122  2625 46 
33 Tripura 2292 165  34153 149  404
34 Uttarakhand 62911 3385  154147 4981  3293 151 
35 Uttar Pradesh 259844 2630  1151571 28902  14501 350 
36 West Bengal 122774 902  800328 17412  11964 117 
Total# 3645164 78766  17612351 331507  234083 3915 
*(Including foreign Nationals)
**( more than 70% cases due to comorbidities )
#States wise distribution is subject to further verification and reconciliation
#Our figures are being reconciled with ICMR

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 nationwide 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.