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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.

Variants of Coronavirus

When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.
Genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been emerging and circulating around the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Of them, the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427 (Epsilon), B.1.429 (Epsilon), and B.1.617.2 (Delta) variants are classified as variants of concern. The variant that has severely affected India and is responsible for the disastrous second wave of coronavirus in the country is the Delta variant. A recent study has shown that this Delta variant has further mutated to the Delta Plus variant which has the potential to cause a third wave of the pandemic in India. The Delta plus variant has also been discovered in Britain.

Effects of Vaccines on the Variants

According to several lab tests show, the Delta variant has stronger resistance to vaccines than other variants. A British study published in the Lancet medical journal in early June looked at levels of neutralising antibodies produced in vaccinated people exposed to the Delta, Alpha (first identified in Britain) and Beta (first identified in South Africa) variants.
It found that antibody levels in people with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot were six times lower in the presence of the Delta variant than in the presence of the original Covid-19 strain on which the vaccine was based. The Alpha and Beta variants also provoked lower responses, with 2.6 times fewer antibodies for Alpha and 4.9 times fewer for Beta.
A French study from the Pasteur Institute has said that neutralising antibodies produced by vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are three to six times less effective against the Delta variant than against the Alpha variant. Although they represent an essential marker, the levels of antibodies measured in a lab are not enough to determine the efficacy of a vaccine.
As a result, real-world observations are crucial to measuring vaccine effectiveness — and the first results are reassuring. According to data published by Public Health England, vaccination with Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca is as effective at preventing hospitalisation in the case of the Delta variant as it is in the case of the Alpha variant. Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab prevent 96 per cent of hospitalisations due to the Delta variant, while AstraZeneca prevents 92 per cent, according to a study involving 14,000 people.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 88 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid caused by the Delta variant two weeks after the second dose, while the jab is 93 per cent effective for cases caused by the Alpha variant. AstraZeneca shows the efficacy of 60 per cent against cases caused by the Delta variant and 66 per cent in the case of Alpha.
The team behind the Sputnik V jab meanwhile tweeted on Tuesday that theirs was “more efficient against the Delta variant than any other vaccine that published results on this strain so far”. They did not publish results but said the study by the Gamaleya Center, a Russian research institute, had been submitted for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal.

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.
8. Vaccine Scams
The government of India has recently allowed residential societies to organise vaccine camps. Following that, an upmarket society in Mumbai at Hiranandani organised a vaccination camp in the society complex. The residents were informed that they will receive the shots from Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri. But when they received the vaccine certificates, they found that their vaccines came from Nanavati Max Super Speciality, Lifeline hospitals and NESCO jumbo centre. They got suspicious about the authenticity of the vaccines because none of the 400 people who received the vaccine shots got any post-vaccine symptom whatsoever. Also, the residents were prohibited from taking any pictures while getting jabbed.
The residents inquired about the Nanavati hospital to realise that they had no part in the vaccination at the society. The residents, who paid over 1200 rupees for each shot, are wondering if they received actually the COVID vaccine or were shot with a simple glucose dose. Either ways such scams are only going to aggravate the problem, as a new variant has already emerged and the third wave of COVID-19 is just around the corner.

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, 3 Crore confirmed cases of the virus have been detected across the country with over 3.9 lakh deaths so far. In response to this, the country has been taking the following steps to combat COVID19.

India revived 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.

Acceptance of International Aid

India changed its course and broke its decade-old tradition of not seeking outside help to tackle the crisis in the country, and invited the global community to intervene and help control the crisis, especially during the second wave. Through its outstanding diplomacy with respect to vaccine supply across the world before the second wave of COVID in India, the country managed to receive support from several European countries, Asian and Arabian countries, and North American countries.

Amending the CSR norms

In order to attract more corporate support, the government of India, during the course of the pandemic’s first and second wave, has amended the CSR law to encourage more corporate participation in the management of COVID-19. The norms allowed for companies to spend on mitigating and controlling the pandemic, provide for safety equipment, conduct vaccination camps, etc. under its CSR expenditure. It also allowed the corporates to provide financial support to the government by making contributions to PM CARES fund under their CSR expenditure.

Coronavirus in various parts of India

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 30th June 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 42 7296 10  128
2 Andhra Pradesh 40074 2178  1832971 5757  12671 41 
3 Arunachal Pradesh 2687 110  32716 233  168
4 Assam 27039 649  474457 1996  4509 27 
5 Bihar 1832 141  710238 330  9584
6 Chandigarh 163 18  60685 41  808
7 Chhattisgarh 5914 294  974725 676  13438
8 Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu 44 10507 4
9 Delhi 1531 22  1407592 119  24971
10 Goa 2241 75  161160 286  3048
11 Gujarat 3230 235  810147 326  10056
12 Haryana 1495 98  757640 160  9417 16 
13 Himachal Pradesh 1654 37  196849 203  3477
14 Jammu and Kashmir 4805 191  306177 493  4316
15 Jharkhand 949 56  339463 149  5113
16 Karnataka 86020 11595  2719479 14724  34929 93 
17 Kerala 99635 3163  2797779 10283  13093 104 
18 Ladakh 271 37  19565 53  202
19 Lakshadweep 306 11  9388 16  48
20 Madhya Pradesh 630 66  780187 86  8954 18 
21 Maharashtra 120281 769  5809548 8623  121804 231 
22 Manipur 5923 281  62134 488  1141 11 
23 Meghalaya 4263 115  44067 489  831
24 Mizoram 4471 39  15512 217  92
25 Nagaland 1381 16  23237 110  493
26 Odisha 28152 920  874307 3520  3970 40 
27 Puducherry 2345 134  112892 327  1748
28 Punjab 3347 292  575971 485  16033 22 
29 Rajasthan 1565 28  941839 147  8918
30 Sikkim 2065 38  17954 103  305
31 Tamil Nadu 39335 1619  2403349 6013  32506 118 
32 Telangana 13487 382  605455 1362  3651
33 Tripura 3580 49  61513 380  677
34 Uttarakhand 2245 49  330593 240  7095
35 Uttar Pradesh 2946 100  1680428 254  22577 18 
36 West Bengal 21116 464  1459510 2024  17679 35 
Total# 537064 15595  29427330 60729  398454 817 
*(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.