Rajat Sharma

Covid: India on full alert, China is hiding facts about pandemic

AKB30 The danger of Covid pandemic, due to recent outbreak in China, is lurking in India, but there is no cause for panic. All that is required is utmost precaution at every level. On Thursday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament that states have been asked to focus on ensuring effective awareness within the community, in view of upcoming festivals and New Year celebrations.

States have been asked to tell people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, which includes use of masks, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene practices, and following physical distancing. The Minister said, India has been reporting 153 new cases on an average every day, as against 5.87 lakhs cases reported daily across the world. He however cautioned that the continuously evolving nature of Coronavirus poses threat to global health in a way that impacts virtually every country.

State governments have been advised to focus on heightened surveillance, and to undertake control and containment measures, if the number of cases rises, he said. The minister also said, states should ensure optimum coverage of Covid-19 vaccination doses among people. Two per cent random sampling of all international passengers arriving in India, has already begun at all international airports to minimise the risk of entry of any new Covid variant into the India, Mandaviya said.

Among the four BF.7 new variant cases found in India till now, two are in Gujarat and one in Odisha, and all the patients have recovered without undergoing hospitalisation. All schools, colleges and universities are being advised to follow Covid protocol. Any lapse can result in spread of the outbreak, experts say. As of now, India has only 3,408 active Covid-19 cases. The numbers may not be frightening, but the Centre has made it clear that the risk of pandemic rearing its head again has not ended.

The pandemic is spreading in China, US, Japan, France, Brazil, South Korea and Germany. There are 2.43 crore active Covid-19 cases at present across the world, out of which India accounts for only 3,408, but we must not remain complacent. The new BF.7 is a sub-variant of BF.5, but its transmission rate is faster and its incubation period is less. The new variant can spread twice or four times within hours. The worrying point is that this variant has already reached US, UK, Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark.

Let me say again, extra precaution is the need of the hour. In winter, most people in India suffer from cold, cough and fever, and since these are supposed to be initial symptoms of Covid, one must undergo RT-PCR testing immediately. Early detection of the virus can help in easy treatment. Former AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said, there is nothing to panic, but precaution is necessary, particularly among the elderly people. He said, India’s situation is vastly different from that of China, and it is better to remain ‘over-prepared’ rather than be ‘under-prepared’.

We should carefully listen to what the experts are saying. People in general have become callous towards Covid, most of the people have stopped wearing masks in public, social distancing has gone for a toss, and those catching cold, cough and fever are not getting Covid tests done. These mistakes can cost us dearly. Out of 3,408 active cases in India presently, 82 per cent cases are in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.

The question most people are asking is, why did the pandemic break all of a sudden in China killing thousands of people?

Experts cite two reasons: One, China followed ‘zero Covid’ policy. Anybody found infected was isolated. As a result, people could not develop herd immunity. Most of the population remained untouched from earlier Delta variant, but when the new variant surfaced, there was literally an explosion in the number of infections.

Two, China, in order to remain ahead of other nations, claimed that it has developed Sinovac vaccine. The government focused on administering only Sinovac vaccine to people in China. Use of vaccines developed by other countries was prohibited. The Chinese vaccine could not prove its efficacy when the outbreak began. One medical expert in Hong Kong said, “everybody knew that the Chinese vaccine was not effective. People in China had been surviving on limited immunity developed from Chinese vaccine only.”

When countries like US, UK, France, Germany, India, Australia and Canada were rocked by the second wave of pandemic, China, while deliberately underreporting its number of cases, claimed that its ‘zero Covid’ policy was a success. As a result, even asymptomatic and Covid positive people having light symptoms were ordered to report for work in the commercial capital of Shanghai, industrial city of Chongqing and the manufacturing hub of Zhejiang. Earlier, RT-PCR tests used to be carried after even a minor suspicion, but under the new policy, no RT-PCR tests were being done.

The results are there for all to see. One leading expert has said that at least 60 per cent of China’s population, that is, 80 crore people can be infected with the virus in the next few months. Another expert said, the number of deaths can touch a million.

Bodies are already piling up inside hospitals and mortuaries. In one video, at least 100 bodies were shown. But, official Chinese government data show only seven people died of Covid during the last three days: 2 on Monday and 5 on Tuesday. China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the present wave is going to pick up in the coming days.

With no place left in hospitals to treat patients or keep bodies, the number of new patients is constantly on the rise. In some hospitals, patients were shown on beds, with bodies lying on the floor inside wards. There are visuals of patients lying on the floor near bodies. Hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong, Wuhan, Shilin are full with no beds left for new patients. There is severe shortage of medicines and doctors. Stadiums and shopping malls are now being converted into temporary hospitals. People having light symptoms are being given medicines from clinics and asked to go home. There are long queues outside clinics.

Despite this big wave of pandemic, the Chinese government is underreporting facts. Let me cite one example. At present, there are 2.43 crore active Covid cases across the world. 18 lakh active cases are in the US, nearly 11.5 lakh cases are in South Korea and France, 5.5 lakh active cases in Germany, but in China, where hospitals are full of patients, the government claims there are only nearly 37,000 active cases. Clearly, the Chinese authorities are hiding facts. The truth that is spilling out to the world outside is through the social media.

While the Chinese government admits that there has been a serious outbreak, it is unwilling to disclose the exact number of deaths and the number of patients undergoing treatment. It is not even disclosing which areas in China have large number of active cases. But experts in the US say that there is credible information that the virus is spreading fast in China, there has been a large number of deaths, and the virus, after mutations, can pose a danger to the rest of the world.

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