Prioritise treatment

Testing, lockdown not enough to contain Covid-19

Prioritise treatment

Covid-19 is spreading thick and fast in India, with around 50,000 cases being recorded on a daily basis. Under severe strain, the healthcare infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with the spike in infections. The prolonged lockdown was meant to give the authorities time to set their house in order in anticipation of a surge once the unlocking began, but that’s not how things have panned out. Still, the Central and state governments continue to be in a self-congratulatory mode, giving the misleading impression of being in control and tom-tomming the high rate of recovery, the relatively low mortality rate and the considerably enhanced testing. During the virtual launch of coronavirus testing facilities based in Noida, Mumbai and Kolkata, PM Narendra Modi said on Monday that India was fighting the pandemic better than other countries as it had taken right decisions at the right time. India is indeed better placed than the US and Brazil, the worst-hit nations, but not so when compared with Russia, South Africa, Peru and Chile (all of which figure in the top 10).

Numbers tell only half the story, more so when the government chooses to highlight only the favourable figures. It’s true that India’s mortality rate is falling gradually, but the number of deaths is as high as 600-700 per day — over 10 per cent of the current daily toll worldwide. In terms of overall fatalities, India is at the sixth place, but it will inevitably move up the ladder in the next few weeks.

Ramping up testing is welcome, but it alone does not guarantee a solution. The focus, as of now, should be on treatment, while ensuring adequate supply of approved drugs such as dexamethasone and remdesivir. Some Covid care centres in the country have thousands of beds at their disposal, but do all these have proportionate health staff to handle the ever-rising caseload? Considering that the systemic inadequacies have not yet been addressed, it’s hardly surprising that most states can’t think beyond reimposition of the lockdown to check the spread of the virus. But, as the WHO has said, there are no shortcuts out of the pandemic.

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