High Population and Poor Health Facilities Push India Towards Becoming Next Coronavirus Hotspot

The recent coronavirus outbreak which originated in China’s Hubei Province, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after the virus rapidly infected many countries across the globe. Over 8,73,700 people have been diagnosed with the deadly virus and the death toll is now nearly 43,200, worldwide.

Italy and Iran have seen a rapid surge in coronavirus cases within a few days and became the epicenter of the infection in Europe and the Middle East respectively. The number of confirmed cases in the US has surpassed over 1,89,400 in all 50 states, with more than 75,700 in New York alone.

Covid-19 Coronavirus in India

Coronavirus spread is now a major issue for the subcontinent

The number of cases of coronavirus in India has reached over 1,650  with over 50 deaths recorded so far. Despite this fact, people are spiraling and jumping off quarantine after getting tested positive.

There is no way to be sure without any tests whether there is a community spread or not since the average testing sample ratio is quite low as compared to South Korea who managed to control the spread with stringent measures.

However, given the high population density and the negligent behaviour of people, many are skeptical about the true number of infected cases. The WHO has disagreed with the testing method that the Indian authorities have put in motion based on the data and pattern of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Experts have expressed their concerns that the number of coronavirus cases could escalate rapidly in the coming days and India could become the next coronavirus hotspot within days.

Table of Contents:

Coronavirus Cases in India – Live Updates
How Did Coronavirus COVID-19 Reach India
India’s COVID-19 Testing Method
Preventive Measures Taken By India
Mass Testing is Essential
Criticism and Chaos

Coronavirus in India – Latest Updates

19:00 IST – March 31, 2020:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said 1,548 people have been evacuated from Nizamudddin markaz (centre) hereof which, 441 were hospitalised after they showed coronavirus symptoms. He said that out of 97 cases of coronavirus in the city, 24 were those who took part in the congregation earlier this month.

Kejriwal also said the Delhi government will start distributing food from around 3,775 schools and night shelters to around 10-12 lakh people from April 1.

Meanwhile, the cases have increased over 1,350. Maharashtra has a total of 245 cases with 10 deaths, while Kerala has seen over 230 cases with 2 deaths. UP has 96 patients with 17 deaths whereas Karnataka has 91 cases with 6 deaths.

13:30 IST – March 30, 2020:

The number of total cases in India has climbed to 1,190 after around 50 fresh cases were recorded on Monday morning. The death toll due to Covid-19, meanwhile, has crossed the 30-mark, while 98 people have been either cured or discharged.

Maharashtra, the worst hit, has reported the most deaths (six) so far, followed by Gujarat (six), Karnataka (three), and Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir (two each). Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have reported a death each.

Amid rumors that the 21-day lockdown could be extended further, the Union government on March 30 categorically stated that there was no such plan. The 21-day lockdown had come into effect on Tuesday midnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement to the effect in a nationally televised address on Tuesday evening.

13:00 IST – March 28, 2020:

At least three doctors in Mumbai have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. It is suspected that two of them came in contact with the virus through patients while one doctor’s relatives had recently come back from the UK. One of these doctors has died.

In a first, Indian scientists have revealed the microscopy images of COVID-19 coronavirus. The scientists took the throat swab sample from the first laboratory-confirmed Coronavirus case in India, reported on January 30 in Kerala. The findings were published in the latest edition of the Indian Journal of Medical Research.

revealed the microscopy images of COVID-19 coronavirus

A. A representative negative-stained COVID-19 particle showing morphodiagnostic features of family Coronaviridae. B. Defocussed image of the same particle resolving the virus envelope glycoprotein morphology in finer details. C. A highly magnified processed image for pixel corrections shows distinct evidence of direct ‘stalk’ connecting the peplomer to the virion surface.  / Image: India TV News

Meanwhile, the country is being governed with fear and chaos as the total number of cases has reached above 900 with 20 deaths nationwide.

India will soon start testing blood samples of people who do not have symptoms of the coronavirus disease in an attempt to find the scale of the outbreak. The ICMR, which is overseeing the country’s testing regime, is procuring 10 lakh kits for these serological tests.

19:50 IST – March 27, 2020:

A new report from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University and the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) has predicted that 21-day lockdown may be ineffective to stop the COVID-19 peak arriving in the next three months, which could infect over 12 crore Indians in an optimistic (low) scenario.

In a high scenario, the total number of confirmed cases can even touch a massive figure of 25 crores, while the medium scenario could witness a total of 18 crores.

The ICMR has revealed that India will soon participate in WHO’s ‘solidarity trial’ for developing potential drugs for COVID-19, as the number cases soar to over 750 with 19 deaths in the country.

Moreover, Health secretary Lav Agarwal stated that ICMR will try to look at repurposing molecules to get a clear clue on the drug work in labs. He added that if it is successful, ICMR can take it to trials.

12:30 IST – March 27, 2020:

The number of confirmed cases has reached over 720 with 17 deaths in different corners of the country. The Health Ministry has stated that four deaths were reported from Maharashtra while Gujarat had registered three deaths.

Karnataka has reported two deaths so far, while Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have reported one death each.

Two siblings, an eight-year-old boy and seven-month baby, have tested positive for Covid-19 in Jammu and Kashmir, taking the number of cases in the UT to 13. Meanwhile, 31 people were arrested in the valley for violating prohibitory orders imposed under the lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced to convert 325 of its schools into a temporary kitchen for the needy people affected by nationwide lockdown. The Delhi government will feed 4 lakh, poor people, a day.

The Reserve Bank of India has also joined the fight with a host of measures aimed at minmising the damage from coronavirus outbreak. These measures come hours after Moody’s Investors Service cut India’s growth forecasts for the 2020 calendar year to 2.5% from 5.3%.

The MPC decided by 4-2 majority to reduce the repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 percent. The reverse repo rate was cut by 90 bps to 4 percent, creating an asymmetrical corridor.

Meanwhile, the citizens are getting restless and anxious as many haven’t gotten any fresh supplies in days due to the lockdown. While it is not much of an issue with the youth, the children and elderly need ample and fresh food supply to sustain their health. Moreover, the daily wage earners are not worried about the virus, they are more afraid of starving to death.

18:15 IST – March 26, 2020: 

PM Modi has urged the government authorities to find innovative ways to use their resources to set up manufacturing of medical equipment like ventilators and scaling up their production. The efforts to utilise state-owned facilities and production units for escalate production and supply of medical equipment and setting up quarantine facilities.

To fast-track the validation of commercial testing kits, the ICMR has allowed four labs to evaluate the kits that various manufacturers are offering to create on a large scale to test for COVID-19 patients.

A British national, who had earlier tested positive for Covid-19, responded well to the drugs combination of Ritonavir and Lopinavir (HIV antiretroviral drugs), and his latest test results showed that he tested negative for the virus, doctors at the Ernakulam Medical College Hospital in Kochi said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced a  1,70,000-crore food security scheme to help the economically weaker sections to tide over the added challenge of lockdown and job loss during the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus.

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries wrote to state governments to ensure seamless production and distribution of essential food products during the 21-day lockdown over coronavirus. This step has been taken in order to ensure relief for the migrant workers stranded without food and shelter across India.

According to the Union Health Ministry, India is not in the community transmission stage of novel coronavirus pandemic. A senior ministry official revealed that if and when India registers community transmission of the deadly virus, people will be informed of their safety.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Odisha government said today that it readying to set up the largest Covid-19 hospital in India. The hospital will have about 1,000 beds and will be functional in a fortnight.

10:40 IST – March 26, 2020:

Three persons, with a history of international travel, have tested positive for COVID-19 in Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said. This is the first instance of positive coronavirus cases in the state.

Amid a scramble for supplies, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged residents not to panic and said e-passes would be issued to vegetable-sellers and grocers among others to ensure essential supplies during the lockdown.

The government temporarily suspended toll collection on national highways to ease emergency services in view of the coronavirus outbreak. In view of COVID-19, it has been ordered to temporarily suspend the collection of toll at all toll plazas across India, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced. This will not only reduce inconvenience to emergency services but also save critical time.

Chinese officials have praised the Indian government for its efforts to fight coronavirus. In a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, Counselor Ji Rong said, “Chinese enterprises have started to make donations to India. We stand ready to provide further support and assistance to the best of our capability in light of the needs of the Indian side.”

In Jammu and Kashmir, the restrictions on the movement and assembly of people continued for the eighth consecutive day on March 26. They added that the authorities tightened the curbs across the valley as four more positive cases. The security forces sealed off many roads and erected barriers to check the movement of people across the valley.

18:00 IST – March 25, 2020:

While the number of coronavirus in the country has reached over 600 people with 10 deaths, the people are scared and are trying to avoid getting infected. PM has advised people to stay indoors not to self-medicate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while interacting with the people of Varanasi on the coronavirus lockdown said the war of “Mahabharata was won in 18 days, the war against coronavirus would take 21 days.”

Appreciating their hard work amidst the coronavirus crisis, Odisha’s CM Naveen Patnaik has announced that the health officials and doctors will receive four months’ salary in advance. He has also revealed that he would donate his three months’ salary to help those affected by COVID-19.

11:30 IST – March 25, 2020:

As the PM announced a nation-wide lockdown for three weeks, the whole country scrambled for essential supplies before the lockdown was put in effect. Nobody in the world’s biggest democracy will be allowed to leave home for the next three weeks, Modi said.

Although the PM had assured the people that essential services will not be shut down, there was a wave of fear and panic.

“There are no clear instructions, police are telling us to close down the shop,” said Ram Agarwal, a grocer in Delhi swamped by people looking to buy dry food supplies and milk.

Cases reported from the remote parts of the western state of Maharashtra have fueled concerns about the ability of the public health system, notoriously starved of resources, to cope. India has just 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, compared to 4.3 in China and 3.2 in Italy.

According to some experts, shutting down a $2.9-trillion economy would cause widespread damage and especially hurt the poorest people, who are living in daily wages. There are also concerns about the ample supply of food for the second-most populous country of the world.

India has been put in lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. People have been told to stay indoors, but for many daily-wage earners, this is not an option.

Millions of other daily-wage earners are afraid of starvation amidst the lockdown. The lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 evening means they are now facing no prospect of income for the next three weeks. The likelihood is, some will run out of food in the coming days.

An ICMR study has revealed that India will see community transmission of COVID-19, but its efforts to effectively screen and quarantine the patients will determine when that occurs.

Using mathematical models of disease transmission, the study aimed to find if it’s possible to prevent and delay local outbreaks of the novel coronavirus through restrictions on travel from abroad and quarantine of patients.

The race to identify asymptomatic patients has begun as they could transmit the disease throughout a community undetected. The ICMR is trying to increase the testing criteria and curbing the spread of coronavirus in India.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on March 24, said that his government would be compelled to impose total curfew and “shoot-at-sight” orders if people violated lockdown to fight the spread of coronavirus.

20:50 IST – March 24, 2020:

Prime Minister Narender Modi has announced that a lockdown of 21 days commencing 12 AM midnight will be implemented to save the nation and its residents from this grave situation. The PM has urged people to employ restraint and not leave their homes unnecessarily and play their part in fighting the Covid-19 epidemic.

PM Modi also assured that essential services will not be hampered and there will be systems put in place to ensure smooth functioning for the same.

Also, a package of ₹15,000 crores has been announced for the healthcare sector to prepare for the expected eventuality.

18:00 IST – March 24, 2020:

The Maharashtra government had announced curfew on the entire state as the number of cases recorded has been rising and people continue to leave their homes disregarding Section 144 imposed by the government. While essential services would not be impacted, all religious places would be asked to shut down. The regulations would be in effect until March 31.

Himachal Pradesh government has also imposed an indefinite state-wide curfew. Kangra is the only district in the state where three coronavirus cases have been detected so far. However, the 69-year-old man, who died due to coronavirus in Kangra, had taken lunch in a restaurant in Una on March 21. The restaurant staff has been quarantined, officials said.

To help the tourists stranded across India, the Ministry of Tourism issued an advisory to treat hotels and similar establishments as Support Services amid the current coronavirus lockdown. The advisory was issued by the Secretary of Tourism Ministry to the Chief Secretaries (CS) of all states and union territories. The advisory is regarding foreign and domestic tourists who are stranded across the country due to lockdown and shut down of transport services.

The total number of cases in India has crossed over 500 with ten deaths due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

11:20 IST – March 24, 2020:

With the first case in the North East, the total number of coronavirus infections in India crossed the 500-mark. India reported three Covid-19 deaths on March 23, taking the death toll to 10. The entire country has been put under lockdown until the situation is contained. All transport has been suspended to curb the spread of coronavirus in India.

Punjab, which had thousands of expats heading for home, declared a curfew on Monday. So did Maharashtra, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

In Kolkata, sources said the 57-year-old who died at a private hospital, did not have any travel history, raising concern about the chain of transmission of the virus.

The Supreme Court asked all states and Union Territories to set up high-level committees to identify prisoners who could be released on parole, to help de-congest the crowded prisons.

The number of states and Union Territories (UTs) which have imposed a lockdown has increased to 32 from 30. The number of districts under lockdown has increased to 560 from 548.

Some of the states that have imposed a complete curfew are Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab. Tamil Nadu will be imposing Section 144.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 8 pm regarding the vital aspects relating to the COVID-19 menace. His announcement comes even as the number of confirmed cases in India crossed over to 500.

11:20 IST – March 23, 2020:

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has expanded the criteria of people who can be tested to include all patients with pneumonia symptoms or severe respiratory illnesses as the number of confirmed cases rise above 420 in India with eight deaths.

Maharashtra has recorded a total of 89 cases, including 14 cases in Mumbai and 1 in Pune.

The Centre has urged the states to strictly impose lockdown in the areas where it has been announced and to take legal action against the violators.

17:40 IST – March 22, 2020:

India observed a Janta Curfew all across the nation that has been imposed from 7 am to 9 pm, with people staying indoors all day in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Amidst the coronavirus scare, the national capital has been largely under lockdown. CM Arvind Kejriwal has expressed a “compassionate gesture” to provide “free ration and doubled pensions” to almost 72 lakh people of Delhi, whose jobs and livelihood may have been affected by the coronavirus.

Delhi police has announced Prohibitory Orders under Section 144 CrPc in all the seven districts of the national capital as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the railways has announced to suspend all its passenger services from March 22 to March 31. Only goods trains will be running during the said period.

The state government has issued a notification, putting Kolkata and several other areas in West Bengal in lockdown from March 23 till March 27 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Uttar Pradesh government has also announced to impose a lockdown in 15 districts, including Lucknow, with effect from March 23 till March 31.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has declared a lockdown till 31 March in the state, under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 as a precautionary measure.

Taking preventive measures against the novel coronavirus, the Karnataka government has ordered that all public transport will remain cancelled in the state on March 23 as well.

All AC bus services will stay suspended until 31 March. After the Janta curfew concludes at 9 pm, Section 144 will be imposed in the state from 9 pm till midnight.

The Centre has asked the state governments to impose a complete lockdown in 80 districts across the country that have reported COVID-19 cases and casualties.

Only essential services will operate in these 80 districts and state governments have been asked to expand the list depending on their assessment of the situation.

16:20 IST – March 21, 2020:

The country’s largest military quarantine facility at Jaisalmer, which currently houses 500 people, can be expanded, while a dozen additional facilities and military hospitals are being kept on standby, to deal with the coronavirus in India.

Two battalions of troops have been moved and makeshift arrangements made for the desert facilities in Rajasthan and the one at Manesar in Haryana to quarantine Indians arriving from abroad. The facilities can house a total of 1,600 people.

10:20 IST – March 21, 2020:

ICMR has confirmed a total of 271 individuals have been tested positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases. A total of 15,701 samples from 14,811 individuals have been tested for novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday interacted with Chief Ministers of all states via video conferencing to discuss measures to combat COVID-19. Mr. Modi said that the threat of the pandemic is common for all states and underscored the need for Centre and states working together.

He said that while the participation of citizens is necessary to combat the challenge, panic needs to be avoided. He added that given the global context of the spread of the virus in various countries, constant monitoring of the situation is of utmost importance.

Meanwhile, railways have found that 4 passengers travelling from Mumbai to Jaipur on March 16 have been tested positive for COVID-19. They recently had returned from Dubai.

Another 2 passengers marked with mandatory quarantine, found to be travelling between Bengaluru and Delhi, were immediately deboarded and the entire coach was sanitised.

Over 3,200 people have died and around 81,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus in China so far. India sent about 15 tonnes of medical assistance comprising masks, gloves and other emergency medical equipment worth ₹ 2.1 crores to the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city.

How Did Coronavirus COVID-19 Reach India

In early February, the first confirmed cases were reported in the southern state of Kerala. The first three patients were treated and discharged from the hospitals after being cleared of infection. However, more cases were soon reported in Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi among other states and Union Territories.

Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of infected people with 128 cases till now. Kerala has over 118 positive coronavirus patients. Three fresh cases from Noida in the last two days took the total number of coronavirus patients in Uttar Pradesh to 38. Delhi has confirmed 35cases with COVID-19 infection while the tally stands at 31 in Haryana.

Karnataka reported 51 cases while Rajasthan and Gujarat have 38 cases each and Jammu Kashmir has 11 so far. Punjab 31, Tamil Nadu 26, and Andhra Pradesh have 10 cases each. Odisha have two cases while West Bengal has confirmed 10 cases.

According to the experts, the number of positive COVID-19 cases are likely to increase in the coming days.

India’s COVID-19 Testing Method

According to a report in IE, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which is the nodal agency of conducting all the tests related to the identification of coronavirus-induced infections, has said that all of its designated labs will conduct the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The test is commonly used for the detection of Influenza A and B, and H1N1 virus. It is conducted using a swab from the back of the throat, a saliva sample, or a liquid sample from the lower respiratory tract.

In the PCR test, a technique is used to duplicate a segment of the patient’s DNA. In the case of viruses that are made of RNA, the RNA needs to be converted into DNA using a process termed as reverse transcription. The process of duplicating the DNA is then carried out. After copies have been created, a fluorescent DNA binding dye shows whether the virus is present or not.

According to NIMHANS Head of Neurovirology Dr. V Ravi, India is conducting tests for COVID-19 in two stages. The genetic elements, which are common to the presence of coronavirus are tested in the first stage and in the second stage tests specific to the presence of COVID-19 are conducted.

While the National Institute of Virology in Pune was conducting the second test till the beginning of March, the facility has now been transferred to all the labs for quicker results, Dr. Ravi said.

Preventive Measures Taken By India

Amidst rising cases of coronavirus in India, the country has banned the entry of passengers from heavily affected 36 countries. Many states have shut down various institutions, including schools, colleges, malls, cinema theatres, and have advised citizens to avoid travelling to affected areas.

The ICMR had started testing random samples of influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory-like illness to check for community spread of coronavirus. It tested 150 samples at 13 of its virus research and diagnostic labs (VRDLs). In the second phase, the ICMR picked up over 1,020 samples across 51 VRDLs in the country. Out of the 1,020 samples, 500 have been confirmed negative.

The country is trying to contain the virus by closing its borders, testing incoming travelers, and contact tracing from those who tested positive.

The government has also advised people over 65 and children under 10 to stay home and asked private companies to ensure that any employees who can do their jobs from home, do so.

Mass Testing is Essential

With the escalating number of cases of coronavirus in India, mass testing has become necessary to map the virus spread in the country. The ICMR recently announced that it was increasing the testing capacity to 8,000 samples a day from the current 500. Its director-general Balram Bhargava maintained there was “no evidence” of the transmission of the virus in the community.

However, some experts said that in a nation of 1.3 billion people that it won’t be enough to contain the spread. Other measures such as widespread testing and social distancing may be infeasible in cities with high population density and poor health infrastructure.

Dr. T. Jacob John, the former head of the ICMR’s Centre for Advanced Research in Virology, a government-funded institution, said that while growth in total numbers has been slow until now, the number will be 10 times higher by April 15.

Experts believe that the low testing rate may be hiding a big number of infected cases in the country.

According to a report, Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist and senior research scholar at Princeton University, said that the actual number could be in “tens of thousands.”

The number of tests being done in India right now is grossly inadequate … also because the criteria is narrow. India should be conducting at least 10,000 to 20,000 tests per day … it has the capacity to conduct 100,000 tests per day. We have already wasted three weeks. We need to ramp up the testing. If we wait, things can get majorly out of control.

Criticism and Chaos

The Indian government is facing criticism for the relatively low number of tests it has administered to detect coronavirus cases, raising fears that tens of thousands of patients may be going undetected. India has tested only about 12,000 people so far, despite the capacity to test about ten times that many.

The country has administered a “very narrow” criteria according to the experts. The WHO has urged countries to test every suspect case, not just people with relevant travel or contact history. Only people who have traveled from the worst affected countries or come in contact with a confirmed case and shown symptoms after two weeks are being tested.

But many Indians with symptoms indicative of a possible COVID-19 infection, have been turned away from hospitals as they seek tests, and that is causing increasing fear in the world’s second-most populous country.

According to a team of scientists, India could face around 100,000 to 1.3 million confirmed cases of the new coronavirus by mid-May if it continues to spread at its current pace.

The estimates have invoked concerns among some medical officials and experts in India that the country of 1.4 billion people could see coronavirus cases jump sharply in the coming weeks and put its health system under severe strain.

The analysis first appeared on Medium, a U.S. publishing platform. The study was carried out by the COV-IND-19 Study Group of scholars and scientists looking into the threat posed by the coronavirus, and COVID-19, the disease it causes, in India.

Amidst this chaos, the whole country is being governed by panic. Although there has been a low rate of cases in comparison to the neighbouring countries, the sheer fear is induced by the fact that the population density of India is more than twice that of China and it could lead to a disastrous outbreak.

If the current symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are not kept isolated and the coronavirus escalated through community spread, more than 60 percent of the population could be infected within a matter of days.

The baseless claims that chickens are the carriers of the coronavirus prompted many of the poultry farmers to bury thousands of chickens alive.

Meanwhile, the contractors of religion have been encouraging the superstitious Indians to perform rituals to ward off the COVID-19 infection. As if that wasn’t enough, a Hindu group organised a Gaumutra (cow urine) Party, promoting the “cow politics” in the country and asked the devotees to drink the cow urine as a prevention from the infection.

The doctors and other medical staff have been bearing the brunt of the public panic. Medical staff in the national capital New Delhi revealed that they have been ostracized and discriminated against by their communities due to the coronavirus fears.

Some doctors have even reported being evicted, or facing threats that their electricity will be cut off. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 care were asked to vacate their rented homes and some were even forcefully evicted from their temporary residence by landlords and house-owners due to the fear that those healthcare professionals make them susceptible to coronavirus infection.

 

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