India’s Covid-19 reproduction rate holds steady

India’s Covid-19 reproduction rate holds steady
  • India’s Covid-19 R0 (R-naught) — a measure of the rate of spread — has remained steady for nearly a month, despite a series of relaxation measures announced, first on April 20 and then on May 3. While the R0 between March 27 and April 6 was 1.83 — which means that one infected person was infecting 1.83, or almost 2, healthy people — the R0 between April 13 and May 10 remained constant at 1.23.
  • The results, from a study by the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, assume significance as Lockdown 3.0 was a relatively milder version of Lockdown 2.0, with the relaxation from May 4 seeing surging crowds in public areas, especially at liquor shops. According to the study, India is likely to have between 70,000-80,000 active cases by the time Lockdown 3.0 comes to an end on May 17 — the number of active cases as of Wednesday was around 47,500.
  • Among the worst affected states, which are seeing huge increases in their Covid-19 case count, Tamil Nadu has the highest R0 of 2.01, which means that each infected person is passing on the virus to more than two people. Punjab, which saw the return of nearly 3,500 pilgrims stuck in Nanded, Maharashtra, has also seen a rise in its R0 to 1.32. In West Bengal’s case, the R0 has fluctuated from 1.51 in end-April to 1.14 in the beginning of May before settling in at 1.34 till May 10.
  • India’s health ministry has confirmed 74,281 Covid-19 cases (47,480 active cases) and 2,415 fatalities. The Times of India on Wednesday reported 74,347 cases. 3,543 fresh cases were recorded on Tuesday.
  • Fatalities across the world are 291,981 (over 4.26 million infections).

The numbers are as of Wednesday, 12:30 pm IST. Check out the latest data here

Lockdown isn’t good for well-being, either
Lockdown isn’t good for well-being, either
The adverse impact India’s stringent lockdown has had on the medical care of diseases beyond Covid-19 is well recorded, with hospitals overburdened or shut and patients unable to travel (more on the domino effect here). But the repercussions go beyond this: India’s immunisation drive is hit, nutritional requirements of the poor are not being met, and anxiety and depression have heightened among Indians.

Consider this: A survey of over 5,000 rural households across 12 states shows that 68% had reduced food items in their meals, 50% had reduced the number of times they were eating and 24% had to borrow foodgrains. This despite the 77 million tonne stock of foodgrain at the Food Corporation of India — a surplus so bountiful that the central government has approved the use of rice to make ethanol.

Another survey of 1,100 parents and primary caregivers by Child Rights and You, a non-government organisation, found nearly 50% children below five years of age weren’t able to access immunisation services during the lockdown. An estimated 71,000 babies are born each day in India and vaccination during the early days is crucial to prevent diseases such as polio. “Even though children have been largely spared of the direct health effects of Covid-19 so far, findings of our study indicate they have been among its biggest victims with multiple side-effects on their physical and psycho-social well-being,” said Varun Sharma, general manager, research, CRY.

The lockdown has also had heightened depression and anxiety among Indians. According to counselling firms that cater to India’s corporate workplaces, there has been a 35-40% increase in the number of cases of stress and panic attack in April. A large number of the callers expressed anxiety, depression, loneliness, newly-formed OCDs (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and even fear of death due to social isolation.

The malaise isn’t restricted to corporate workplaces, of course. According to the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, 10.6% of India’s 1.3 billion population suffers from mental health disorders, and nearly 80% of such patients do not undergo treatment or therapy. Worse, the little institutional support patients have in India were shut due to lockdown — counsellors had stopped working while large institutes such as the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bengaluru, closed out-patient department.

Shedding more light on UV
Shedding more light on UV
  • Some scientists are hoping a decades-old technology — used to kill bacteria, viruses and moulds, notably in hospitals and in the food-processing industry — could zap Covid-19 pathogens out of the air in stores, restaurants and classrooms, potentially playing a key role in containing further spread of the pandemic. Called upper-room ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), it is something like bringing the power of sunlight indoors.
  • Now, ultraviolet light mangles the genetic material in pathogens — DNA in bacteria and fungi, RNA in viruses — preventing them from reproducing. At the same time, the UVC rays (the shortest wavelength in the UV spectrum, ranging between 200-280 nanometres) used in UVGI are dangerous, causing skin cancer and eye problems. They can be used only when no one is present. That’s why the New York subway system, following the example of Chinese subways, plans to use ultraviolet lamps to disinfect its trains, but only during night-time closures.
  • However, a team at Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research is experimenting with far-UVC — in the range from about 205-230 nanometres — which is safe for humans but still lethal to viruses, director David Brenner told AFP. At those wavelengths, the rays cannot penetrate the surface of the skin nor of the eye.
  • Another approach being suggested by scientists advises using fixtures containing UVGI lamps that can be mounted on the walls or suspended from the ceilings — think fluorescent lights. Ceiling fans are sometimes installed to draw air upward so that floating bacteria, viruses and fungi are zapped more quickly. UVGI lamps can also be installed in the corners of a room and alternatively, can be installed in air ducts of ventilation systems or portable or fixed air cleaners. The models are now being applied to bigger spaces like airports and retail stores.
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World’s oldest person to beat the virus
World’s oldest person to beat the virus
  • Maria Branyas lived through both World Wars and the Spanish Civil War. And now she’s become the world’s oldest reported person to ever survive the coronavirus, at 113. (She’s nearly four years younger than Japan’s Kane Tanaka, the world’s oldest woman.) And she beat Covid-19 after being diagnosed with the disease in April.
  • Branyas self-isolated at the Santa Maria del Tura care home in the eastern city of Olot, Spain and later tested negative. Despite simultaneously suffering from a urine infection, the great-grandmother of 13 was virtually asymptomatic, according to her daughter, Rosa Moret. “Now she is fine, she is willing to talk, to explain, to think, she is herself again,” wrote Moret on a Twitter account that she had set up for Branyas. She added that her mom is currently healthy, aside from some small pains.
  • The supercentenarian survivor is lucky. The coronavirus often proves fatal for older people, including 17 in one day at her own nursing facility last month, according to The Olive Press. Her victory over the coronavirus places her firmly at the top of the global list of oldest Covid-19 survivors, ahead of Holland’s Cornelia Ras, who overcame the disease at the age of 107.
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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