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Opinion

Covid-19: what you need to know today

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A crowded outdoor vegetable market in Chennai, the headquarters of a Muslim missionary group in Delhi, Onam celebrations in Kerala, Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in Mumbai all ended up being wide-spread events causing a subsequent increase in the number of coronavirus diseases (Covid-19) cases in their respective cities.

In fact, in every country in the world, events and gatherings of this nature, from parties to a big motorcycle rally and even a conference on biotechnology, have all been widely publicized events.

However, for the past two months, India has bucked the trend.

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Elections in Bihar, a state with a population of at least 120 million, saw several major rallies and demonstrations. A review of video footage from these meetings and demonstrations shows poor Covid-19 security protocols – not everyone is seen wearing masks, and there is no social distancing. The scenes of some of the great concentrations of popular political leaders show tens of thousands of people huddled together, displaying totally social behavior and without distancing.

However, Bihar did not see an increase after these meetings. Sure, the state still relies almost exclusively on rapid antigen tests, which are unreliable, but there hasn’t been an increase in deaths that points to a corresponding increase in unrecorded cases.

As of December 12, Bihar had seen 1,317 deaths and recorded 242,748 cases. That translates into a fatality rate of 0.54%. The corresponding figures at the national level were 143,073 and 9,857,345, for a fatality rate of 1.45%. If Bihar’s death rate were the same as the country’s, there would have been 3,520 deaths to date, and 2,203 deaths are not easily hidden even in a state like Bihar. And, anecdotally, there hasn’t been enough evidence of this happening in the state.

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Sure, given the spotty record keeping in most of India, it will take months before data on overall deaths in 2020 can be compared to 2019 (or a long-term average) to see if there is an unexplained increase. for unknown reasons. These deaths can be attributed to Covid-19. This is how, at the beginning of the pandemic, The New York Times and Financial Times found an underreporting of deaths in many countries. A similar study in India will have to wait. It is very likely that there has been an underreporting of deaths in most states in India, but we have no way of knowing the magnitude of this (at this time), except to acknowledge that this has not been significant enough to appear in death records (however irregular they are) or it will be noticed by an increase in burials or cremations.

Cases are a different topic. I have reasoned in previous installments of the column that India’s infection mortality rate (number of deaths to total number of infections) could be 0.1%, which would mean that the country has seen 143 million infections from coronavirus to date, and Bihar has 1.3 million. from them.

Returning to the topic of overcast events, the elections in Bihar are not the only ones that have countered the trend. Also Durga Puja and Diwali.

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This is something that definitely deserves more study, it is the kind of thing the Medical Research Council of India should do, because it could shed light on the current trajectory and more importantly the future trajectory of the coronavirus disease. in the country.

Equally worth studying (and I have written about this before) are the reasons behind the low Covid-19 numbers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, something that cannot be fully explained by the suitability of the tests, the type of tests used (UP does much more RT-PCR testing than Bihar and many other states), or poor documentation. Experts believe that Africa’s low Covid-19 numbers can be attributed to a younger demographic and exposure to its infectious diseases (including those caused by other coronaviruses). That could also be true for UP and Bihar: both populations had an average age of around 21 in 2011, about the same as Kenya today..

Hindustan Times

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