COVID-19: Control, containment and claims

Despite all the tall claims, the over 40-day nationwide lockdown has not been able to stabilize the trend and halt the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in most districts across India.

Confronted with spreading COVID-19 pandemic, the government of India is now pinning hope on its ability to control fatality rate even if it still struggles to flatten the curve. According to the figures released on Wednesday, a total of 1,51,767 cases have been reported from the country in which 64,426 persons have been cured and the recovery rate is pegged at 42.4 per cent. The good sign is the fatality rate is 2.86 per cent whereas the world average is 6.36 per cent. It has been reported that on Tuesday,1,16,041 samples were tested.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) says that it is taking several steps along with the states and union territories for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 through a graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach. While claiming that these steps are being regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level, the MHFW claims that the nationwide lockdown has garnered multiple gains, and primarily among them is that it has decelerated the pace of spread of the disease. The government cites the estimates made by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to claim that a large number of deaths and cases have been averted.  At the same time, during the lockdown period development of COVID-19 specific health infrastructure; capacity development of human resource through online training modules and webinars; increased testing capacity; increase in supplies, equipment, oxygen; issuing of relevant guidelines, standards prepared, circulated, adopted, practiced; development of diagnostics, drug trials, vaccine research; and on the technical side surveillance systems strengthened with more contact tracing, house to house surveys along with tools like Aarogya Setu was achieved, claims the MHFW.

The government of India also says that health infrastructure required for COVID-19 management was ramped up during the lockdown. This claim could be close to facts as by May 27, 930 dedicated COVID hospitals with 1,58,747 Isolation beds, 20,355 ICU beds and 69,076 Oxygen supported beds were made available. 2,362 dedicated COVID Health Centres with 1,32,593 Isolation beds; 10,903 ICU beds and 45,562 Oxygen supported beds have been operationalised. 10,341 quarantine centres and 7,195 COVID Care Centres with 6,52,830 beds are now available to combat COVID-19 in the country. The Centre has also provided 113.58 lakh N95 masks and 89.84 lakh Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the states/UTs/central institutions. The testing capacity has increased in the country through 435 government laboratories and 189 private laboratories (total of 624 labs).  

Despite all the tall claims, the over 40-day nationwide lockdown has not been able to stabilize the trend and halt the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in most districts across India. What came as an ‘urban’ phenomenon has now reached the nooks and corners of rural and remote India. While the country struggles to cope with the pressures to flatten the curve, the nation is already facing the economic and social consequences of a lockdown. The palpable tragedy one gets to see on the faces of migrant workers who walked miles to reach their homes, the exceptional ‘state of exception’ in invoking extraordinary acts, all in the midst of efforts on control, containment and tracing of the disease. 

First Published:May 28, 2020, 12:21 a.m.