India Scrambles to Escape a Coronavirus Crisis. So Far, It’s Working.


NEW DELHI — Over the weekend in Lucknow, considered one of India’s greater cities, younger individuals packed into pubs. Despite the Indian authorities scrambling to lock issues down, few on the bar scene had been taking the coronavirus very severely.

“I am not scared. I eat, party, sleep,’’ said Akshay Gupta, an accountant who was bar hopping on Saturday night. “The scare is overhyped.”

India has reported round 125 instances of the coronavirus, and it’s a little bit of a thriller how the world’s second-most-populous nation, with 1.three billion individuals, has remained comparatively unscathed whereas the variety of instances explodes to its east and west. That has spawned a sense of just about disbelief in regards to the disaster in some quarters.

Doctors say it’s both that there are numerous extra instances in India than have been detected, due to the difficulties of getting examined, or that India has certainly managed to to this point escape the worst, presumably due to fast and strict efforts proper from the beginning.

In the state of Maharashtra, which has recorded the most cases in India, at least 15 people escaped from two hospitals, according to officials and Indian news outlets. Most of the patients have been found and returned to quarantine. Dr. Devendra Paturkar, a medical official in the city of Nagpur, said four patients who fled a hospital there have since tested negative for the coronavirus.

So far most if not all of India’s coronavirus cases have come from travelers — an Italian tour group visiting Rajasthan single-handedly spread many of the cases. But public health experts fear what will happen if community transmission begins to take off, especially in packed urban areas with poor sanitation and where so many people live face to face.

“The challenge of a large country like India with overcrowding is that some people will always slip the net, wherever you put it,’’ said Dipanjan Roy, an Indian epidemiologist who has worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

He also worried about what he called the “let’s wait till tomorrow” attitude. Indian health officials should have put harsher quarantines into effect in February, he said.

“That month cost them,’’ Dr. Roy said.

But he and other doctors said India offered certain advantages, including a decent track record containing flu epidemics and the fact that India is the one of the world’s largest producers of generic drugs.

Antibiotics are often dispensed here without prescriptions, worrying some medical professionals. But in a situation like this, experts said it might help: Many of the people dying from the coronavirus succumb to secondary infections, and some of those can be treated with antibiotics.

Demographics also work to India’s advantage. The population here is considerably younger than in the countries worst hit, and younger people have a much better chance of coping with the virus. Another possible factor is that India’s weather is warmer — and it is about to get really hot — though that has not been clinically proved to have a major effect.

Over the weekend, a well-known Hindu nationalist group held a cow urine drinking party, saying that the urine had medicinal properties and drinking it could ward off the coronavirus. A lawmaker in Mr. Modi’s party has uttered similar things, leaving many people wondering if it could be true. Other party leaders continue to hold large rallies, with people flocking in.

Across India, poultry markets are taking a huge hit. Many Indians believe you can catch the coronavirus from eating chicken. Wholesale chicken prices have crashed by over 50 percent as misinformation has circulated on social media that eating chicken or other meat can spread the coronavirus. Various government agencies have issued statements to assure people there is no link between the coronavirus and chicken, but it hasn’t helped.

Testing has also been a problem. Until last week, it was difficult to get tested in India for the coronavirus unless a patient showed symptoms and had traveled abroad or was close to someone who had. While South Korea has tested more than 4,800 people per million and Italy more than 1,000, India has tested around 5 per million.

But government scientists insist that India has scaled up its testing kits from 20,000 in January to now approximately one million, and that the tests are more widely available and can be processed in a few days at a network of more than 50 national labs.

Still, one doctor in Kerala lost her job this month after trying to get a patient tested.

After Dr. Shinu Syamalan, a general medicine practitioner, referred a patient who had a fever and had returned from the Middle East to the government health department, the owner of the private clinic where Dr. Syamalan worked fired her.

“The owner said people would stop coming to my clinic if they knew a coronavirus patient was here. He was very harsh to me,” Dr. Syamalan said.

The state health department refused to take the case seriously, she said, and the patient walked away untested.

Shalini Venugopal and Hari Kumar contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Vindu Goel from Mumbai.



Source link Nytimes.com

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