We should overcome the fear of Covid, says top epidemiologist

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on October 01, 2020 Published on October 01, 2020

Muliyil, Epidemiologist and former principal of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore

Accounting for some under-reporting too, Covid-19 mortality in India is much lower than many other diseases, he says

As India is exhibiting a sustained declining trend in Covid-19 cases, a noted epidemiologist has said it is important that the fear of the disease should go away from society and that Indians owe their lower rate of Covid-19 mortality more than anything else to their thinner body frame.

Even though the total number of confirmed cases in India has already crossed 62 lakh, the number of Covid-19 deaths was less than one lakh so far.

“The data emerging from urban areas seem to have a magnifying effect on the human mind and is frightening the people. When the cases come down, the fear of the disease will also go off. When you are afraid of something all your impressions are contaminated by the fear (of that thing),” said Jayaprakash Muliyil, noted epidemiologist and former principal of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore.

If looked dispassionately, the mortality from Covid-19 is not very high. Even if some amount of under-reporting is accounted for, Covid-19 mortality in India is much lower compared to many other diseases, Muliyil said, adding that shutting down everything and sitting quietly at home is an even bigger punishment for a majority of Indians.

“Now that we have learned that this is all that the virus can do, we should boldly face it. And younger people and children — it is confirmed again and again — are pretty safe. The mortality rates among them are low — less than the usual road accident rates. The elderly have to be careful for some more time. That is, till we reach the herd immunity level,” Muliyil told BusinessLine.

Also read: Covid-19: Patients hospitalised shortly after symptom onset likely to be more at risk, says study

He said many parts of the country have already achieved herd immunity in bits and pieces. The nationwide data shows that the pandemic is plateauing and coming down. And this data is an aggregate of many cities and towns but hardly from any village. Muliyil said some areas in the country are slowly coming under herd immunity and the aggregate of those effects is already being seen on the nation.

“I think some towns will go up and some towns will go down. Even in big cities, some areas that were reporting a number of cases earlier, have no cases now. And people are comfortably living there. So, it is actually herd immunity in bits and pieces. You cannot do things in other way in a complicated country like India,” said the former CMC professor.

When asked whether the country would witness another spike in cases because of the coming festival season and winter months, Muliyil said it may happen in some small localities, and not the country as a whole.

“Practically, everything has gone according to prediction. That there will be a huge rise in cases and approximately half the population in the country has to get infected whether you like it or not. All these things are sort of materialising. The only good thing (there are a lot of bad things) is that everyone who is infected has already received the vaccination — the natural one. They don’t have to worry now. All this fear that this immunity may not last is not founded on good science. Current evidence shows that it is quite a long-lasting immunity. That gives some comfort,” he said.

Also read: US to achieve herd immunity to Covid by Q4 2021: McKinsey

Muliyil said Indians seem to be enjoying extra bit of protection when it comes to mortality from Covid-19 — Indians are less obese, on average, compared to those in the West.

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Published on October 01, 2020
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