Coronavirus: Why won’t India admit how Covid-19 is spreading?

Published:Sunday, 26 Jul 2020 06:07

Coronavirus: Why won’t India admit how Covid-19 is spreading?

Rajesh Kumar, 45, started coughing in early June. Within days, he was running a high fever.

He didn’t get tested for coronavirus. Instead he took anti-fever medication for five days. But the fever persisted, and soon he had difficulty breathing.

His family asked him to get tested, but he refused. His rationale was that there was no way he could have contracted Covid-19 because he had hardly stepped out of his house in Delhi, and he had not met anybody who had the virus or was even suspected of having it.

Eight days after the symptoms first appeared, his condition deteriorated. He was rushed to hospital, where he tested positive.

“I survived, but doctors told me that any more delay in hospitalisation could have cost me my life,” he says.

Mr Kumar hasn’t been able to track the source of his infection and is still unsure how he caught it.

Experts say there are many such cases – proof that “full-blown” community transmission is happening in India.

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Image caption

India’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with rising cases

But the government refuses to accept that community transmission has begun, saying there is no clear definition of the term, and each country can define it based on local conditions.

So far, Kerala and West Bengal are the only two states to accept that they have entered this stage.

But global understanding on the subject is simple: when the source of infection can’t be traced in a large number of cases, it’s safe to define it as community transmission.

The WHO’s guidelines say the same: “community transmission is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases”.

This is certainly happening in India, according to Dr Arvind Kumar, chairman of the Centre for Chest Surgery at Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital.

He says that more and more patients are turning up at hospitals whose source of infection cannot be traced. And, he adds, the rising case numbers support this.

India has recorded more than 1.2 million cases and nearly 29,000 deaths.

“These stats don’t lie,” Dr Kumar says. “You have state after state where infection rates are going up rapidly. There is no point in denying what is right in front of you.”