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Covid Forecasters Warn India Deaths May Double In Coming Weeks

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Covid Forecasters Warn India Deaths May Double In Coming Weeks


Covid Forecasters Warn India Deaths May Double In Coming Weeks

People carry the body of a deceased Covid-19 patient into a crematorium in New Delhi.

The coronavirus wave that plunged India into the world’s biggest health crisis has the potential to worsen in the coming weeks, with some research models projecting that the death toll could more than double from current levels.

A team at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used a mathematical model to predict about 404,000 deaths will occur by June 11 if current trends continue. A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington forecast 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July.

While coronavirus cases can be hard to predict, particularly in a sprawling nation like India, the forecasts reflect the urgent need for India to step up public health measures like testing and social distancing. Even if the worst estimates are avoided, India could suffer the world’s biggest Covid-19 death toll. The U.S currently has the largest number of fatalities at around 578,000.

India reported a record 3,780 deaths on Wednesday for an overall toll of 226,188, along with 382,315 new cases, taking its outbreak past 20.6 million infections. In recent weeks, the scenes on the ground, with long lines outside crematoriums and hospitals turning away ambulances, have painted a picture of a nation overwhelmed by the crisis.

“The next four to six weeks are going to be very, very difficult for India,” said Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University School of Public Health. “The challenge is going to be to do things now that will make sure it is four weeks, not six or eight, and that we minimize how bad things will get. But in no way is India anywhere near out of the woods.”

A spokesperson for the health ministry couldn’t immediately be reached. The ministry said on Monday that in about a dozen states, including Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, there are early signs that the number of daily new infections are starting to plateau.

The Indian rupee has declined about 1% this quarter in Asia’s worst performance as investors turned cautious ahead of an unscheduled speech by India’s central bank governor Wednesday. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index is down about 2% as foreign funds sold about $1.7 billion of the nation’s stocks.

Economic Impact

A prolonged crisis has the potential to dent the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as slow or reverse India’s recovery from last year’s economic recession. Bloomberg Economics lowered its growth projection for the year ending March 2022 to 10.7% from 12.6%, and even these numbers are flattered by a low base as activity ground to a halt due to a strict lockdown last year.

For public health researchers, a key concern is the relative dearth of coronavirus testing, which many scientists believe is causing a sharp undercounting of cases.

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A health worker takes a swab at a Covid-19 testing site in Uttar Pradesh, on May 4.

“It could honestly get a lot worse, which is hard to imagine given how staggering the impacts have already been when you see 400,000 new cases each day and you know that that’s probably an underestimation,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland.

The main metric that officials are watching is the test positivity rate, which is the percentage of people with positive test results. The overall positivity rate is 20% in India now, and in some parts of the country it tops 40%, a shockingly high number that indicates as many as three-fourths of infections are being missed, said Mr Jha.

The World Health Organization considers anything above 5% too high, saying that governments should implement social distancing measures until positivity rates are below that level for at least two weeks.

“Despite scaling up testing considerably, it’s still not enough to capture all the infected people,” said Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, speaking on Bloomberg TV. “So the numbers, while very high, are likely an underestimate of the true numbers of infections,” she said. “It’s a grim situation.”

Social Distancing

The goal is to run enough tests that a large number of infected people aren’t going undiagnosed. If only the sickest patients are tested, many people with milder disease or no symptoms at all may continue to unwittingly spread the disease.

“There are reports of tests being considerably delayed and of patients delaying having to go to hospital as much as they can, given the stresses on the health system,” said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University, who also works on modeling outbreaks. “We don’t know enough about COVID-19 spread away from the major cities, in the rural heartland of India, although reports from there suggest that the situation is dire.”

The U.S. government, as part of a package of supplies for India, pledged last week to send one million rapid tests to India. There are several other things that could be done quickly to try to help staunch the outbreak. High on the list is wearing masks, a crucial element for disease control, said Catherine Blish, an infectious disease specialist and global health expert at Stanford Medicine in California.

Major cities in India already require people to wear masks, but such rules can be harder to implement in crowded slums and rural areas. Several states have introduced lockdowns, although PM Modi has resisted a national effort after one imposed by him last year fueled a humanitarian crisis with migrant workers fleeing the cities on foot and in some cases bringing the virus with them.

Lockdowns

The Indian Institute of Science has estimated that with a 15-day lockdown deaths could be lower at 300,000, falling to 285,000 with a 30-day lockdown. IMHE estimates a lower death toll of around 940,000 by the end of July with universal mask wearing.

Vaccines will be the big way to remove risks, although it will take time to get there, public health experts say.

It takes several weeks for immunity to build after someone has been vaccinated. The process is even longer with those that require two shots, stretching the process out to six weeks to two months.

“The vaccines are working,” said Kim Mulholland, an Australian pediatrician and leader of the infection and immunity group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. “They just haven’t got the capacity.”

Ultimately, cases will come down, it’s just a matter of when, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and an adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden. Scientists still don’t have a good understanding of why Covid-19 comes in sudden, roller-coaster-like changes, he said.

“It will eventually burn itself through the population,” Osterholm said. “Within several weeks to a month and a half, you will see this peak come back down, and it’s likely to come down quickly.”

–With assistance from Jason Gale.



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UP Woman Claims Harassment, Neglect At Bihar Hospitals Treating Husband

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UP Woman Claims Harassment, Neglect At Bihar Hospitals Treating Husband


UP Woman Claims Harassment, Neglect At Bihar Hospitals Treating Husband

The woman said her husband and she had come to Bihar for a family get-together

Patna:

A woman trying to get her husband treated for COVID-19 at a private hospital in Bihar’s Bhagalpur has accused a staff member of sexual harassment and doctors at the city’s Glocal Hospital and two others – in Mayaganj and Patna – of negligence leading to his death.

In a heart-breaking 12-minute video appeal, the woman alleged doctors and staff at all three hospitals refused to attend to her husband, even to change dirty and soiled sheets on his bed.

She also accused staff at the Bhagalpur hospital of wasting half a vial of Remdesivir – the hugely expensive and difficult-to-procure antiviral drug used in the treatment of COVID-19.

“My husband and I stay in Noida. We came to Bihar for Holi… it was a family get-together. On April 9 he fell ill… had high fever. We tested for coronavirus twice, but it was negative. While we were waiting for RT-PCR test results a Noida doctor told us to get a chest CT,” she said.

The scan, she said, showed 60 per cent infection of the lungs. The following day he, and her mother, were admitted to Bhagalpur’s Glocal Hospital.

“We admitted them – my mother was also unwell – to the ICU… but there was so much negligence! Doctors used to come and go in minutes… attendants were missing and refused to give the medicines. My mother was in better condition but after a point my husband couldn’t speak. He’d signal for water, but nobody gave him any,” she said.

“There was one man – Jyoti Kumar. He was an attendant at Glocal Hospital. I requested him to help… to give my husband clean bedsheets. He said he would help but when I was talking to my husband, my dupatta was yanked from behind. I turned around… he was smiling with his hand on my waist. I snatched the dupatta back… but couldn’t say anything because I was afraid. ‘My husband is here, my mother is here,’ I thought, ‘If I say anything they will do something to them’.”

Following the visit of local government officials to inquire into these allegations, Glocal Hospital has now suspended the accused employee.

The woman, who appeared barely able to contain her tears and anger, then spoke of more shocking experiences in Mayaganj and Patna, where her husband was referred to for further treatment.

In Mayaganj, at the Bhagalpur Government Hospital, she claimed doctors on night shift refused to attend to her husband or even give him oxygen despite desperate appeals from herself and her sister.

In Patna (at the city’s Rajeshwar Hospital), she accused staff of negligence even as his oxygen levels dropped alarmingly low. And after that stabilised, she said, they cut his supply and she was forced to buy cylinders from the black market.

Bihar is one of the states most affected by the second Covid wave; officially over 11,000 cases and 67 deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours. The active caseload in the state is well over one lakh.



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Ahmaud Arbery: US state of Georgia abolishes citizen’s arrest law

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Ahmaud Arbery: US state of Georgia abolishes citizen’s arrest law



Georgia becomes the first US state to make the move, which was spurred by a black man’s shooting.



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Mumbai Plans To Import Millions of Vaccines to Avert Third Covid Wave

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Mumbai Plans To Import Millions of Vaccines to Avert Third Covid Wave


Mumbai Plans To Import Millions of Vaccines to Avert Third Covid Wave

Mumbai was among the nation’s first epicenters of the coronavirus.

Authorities in Mumbai are seeking to import millions of vaccine doses to help avert a third potential coronavirus wave.

The municipal corporation is in talks with the state government to allow it to invite bids from global manufacturers, Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said in an interview Monday.

“The state government tender might be very huge, like 40 million, and no foreign supplier can match that kind of number, but if I just float 5 million vaccines, bids may come up from two-three companies,” he said. “I am working on that and it’s a matter of days that we will finalize something.”

Mumbai is open to any approved vaccine — be it Russia’s Sputnik, ones from Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, or the formula from Pfizer. The city will also pay the firms extra to maintain a cold chain or other necessary logistics, Commissioner Chahal said.

India’s wealthiest city was among the nation’s first epicenters of the coronavirus, but has since seemed to control the spread and is now focused on vaccinating its residents. It has allowed companies and housing societies to hold their own vaccination camps under the supervision of an approved hospital, but a shortage of doses has become a major hurdle.

“Any of 130 private hospitals can send two nurses and one doctor along with an ambulance to any office or housing society premises, they can vaccinate the entire building in two hours and come back, which is kind of de-facto door to door testing,” Commissioner Chahal said.

But the city hasn’t received a single dose of Bharat Biotech Ltd.’s Covaxin in the last 15 days and less than 50,000 doses of Serum Institute of India Ltd.’s Covishield, which is why appointments at vaccine centers are booked out within seconds of being opened.

“Current method for vaccine-slot booking for people aged 18-44 is in resonance with the extreme shortage of vaccines,” Commissioner Chahal said. “You give me 15 million vaccines and we will make it walk-in for all.”



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