Money & Banking

Festivities, winter to add to Covid crisis, caution experts

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on September 17, 2020 Published on September 14, 2020

With the festival season round the corner, retail players are a worried lot   -  AFP

A mixed bag of cheer and concern lie in store over the next three months as festivals combine dangerously with projections of a steady rise in Covid-19 cases.

And winter is coming.

Global scenario

Even as India eases restrictions across States, the experience in other parts of the world is quite different. Israel is going into a second lockdown for three weeks. In England, too, restrictions are being tightened.

The facts don’t stack up kindly for India, too, as 90,000-plus confirmed Covid-19 cases are being reported daily over the last few days on a trot. Presently, India (at 48 lakh) is second to the United States (over 65 lakh) in the number of Covid-19 cases, but that, too, will be breached in October, apprehend doctors.

India could expect approximately 492,380 deaths by December, said a study by United States-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. This could be reduced by about two lakh, it added, with interventions such as targeted lockdowns, besides pushing harder on the use of masks, hand-washing and physical distancing.

IHME Director Dr Christopher Murray had, in an earlier interaction, told Business Line that India was at a “tipping point” and, in terms of sheer numbers, could top the number of deaths globally, thoughit would be lower than the US and Brazil in terms of infection fatality rate, he added.

Challenging times are in store, and the worry is the absence of a “well-directed policy” from Centre or State to handle the increasing numbers, said Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, treasurer with the World Medical Association. The attention should be on controlling mortality and having more facilities for patientsas confirmed cases increase, he said, calling for less bureaucratisation of public health programmes. Doctors are being given less time to quarantine, he alleged, adding that the medical fraternity and healthworkers were tired, and people needed to keep this in mind as as the festival season comes up.

‘Change behaviour’

The oncoming winter seasonis unlikely to change the way the virus behaves, he said, adding “it’s we who need to change our behaviour”.

The testing policy, too, needed to change to be RT-PCR-centric, he said, calling for antigen tests to be stopped. Antigen tests have been receiving much flak for their false negative reports.

A recent survey by community engagement and social-media platform LocalCircles found that people were not getting tested despite having symptoms. About 48 per cent of the citizens said they had one or more individuals among their contacts, who despite having symptoms, did not get a Covid test done and instead went in for self-treatment/quarantine. Many were scared of getting a test done due to the fear of being admitted to a government hospital or due to the high expenses involved in some private hospitals, according to the survey that received over 24,000 responses from across 221 districts.

Even as unlock measures are underway, “with the festive season around the corner, and strong sense of fatigue setting in about staying locked at home, it almost seems certain that it will get worse before it gets better”, the survey observed. The government needs to tell people to be afraid of the virus and not of the testing, observed Sachin Taparia, LocalCircles, Chairman and Chief Executive.

A virologist who did not want to be named also urged the Government to communicate more effectively to the people. Especially since winter was coming, he cautioned, and it would play-up even regular respiratory ailments.

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Published on September 14, 2020
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