Surging coronavirus cases is not a cause for worry, says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

PTI Bengaluru | Updated on March 31, 2020 Published on March 31, 2020

Surging coronavirus positive cases is not a cause for worry, biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said on Tuesday, and voiced confidence that India would be able to manage the Covid-19 crisis so long it keeps the number of infected patients needing critical care small.

The government reported 227 fresh cases of infections nationwide, the highest for a day on Monday. The death toll has risen to 32, and the total number of positive cases in the country was 1,251.

“One thing we must not forget is we will have a surge in the number of positive patients. People should not worry about that,” the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd told PTI in an interview. “I think what we need to really worry about is the seriousness of the disease. And if the disease is serious, and they’ve got too many people coming into critical care, we will be overwhelmed. But as long as the numbers (those needing critical care) are small, we can manage. That’s what we have to look at.”

More tests needed

India has so far done reasonably well in efforts to halt the spread, in terms of declaring lockdown and quarantine measures and stoppage of flights but Covid-19 test rate is “woefully inadequate”, according to her.

Mazumdar-Shaw expressed the view that the government should have pulled in the private sector earlier in the battle against the respiratory disease but now that it has been brought in, it has got into the act by making Covid-19 hospitals and other initiatives.

“Right now the whole feeling is the government wants to control everything, and they don’t have resources. So, to keep the private sector out (earlier) was a mistake,” she said.

Mazumdar-Shaw said the ongoing 21-day lockdown is very important time and absolute need of the hour, because 90 per cent of the people who are quarantined recover after just mild symptoms.

She admired the way Kerala is handling the Covid-19 crisis. “Everything...from quarantining to strictly adhering to social distancing, and to the lock-down, they are I think the best,” Mazumdar-Shaw said.

Stress on self-reliance

She also saw some silver-lining in the current challenges from the Covid-19 outbreak, noting that small companies have come up with great solutions in terms of low-cost indigenous diagnostic kit, some companies have joined hands to ramp up production of ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“Suddenly you realise how important public health is, how important communicable diseases are and how important it’s for India also to be prepared in terms of such epidemics,” Mazumdar-Shaw observed. “It tells you that there is a need to be self-reliant in public health.”

“Today you realise that may be ventilators will really not be a problem for India because you now have got enough capacity created with all these initiatives (to scale up production). I think, basically the silver lining is that it tells you that we do have lot of capabilities, we have not leveraged these capabilities adequately because we have under invested in the healthcare,” she said.

“We have invested too much in other sectors without really investing in the basic (healthcare).”

Apparently sounding philosophical, Mazumdar-Shaw commented: “And finally you realise that health is wealth. I think the world is also going to have a very, very different view of what quality of life is, and what real value of life is. You can have enough money but if you get Covid virus in a very bad way, there is nothing that can save you.”

Published on March 31, 2020

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