India’s problem with the coronavirus is false statistics


The beds in the room are close to each other, there should be dozens. Many patients are hidden under their blankets. A doctor is sitting in a folding chair next to one of them. Checks heart rate. Almost no one has a face mask, writes analyst Laura Höflinger for Der Spiegel.

The photo showing the scene is in black and white. Dates from 1918, Kansas, USA – the time of the Spanish flu. At that time, the need for beds was so great that entire halls around the world were converted into emergency hospitals. At least 50 million people died at the time, most of them in India – between 12 and 20 million, according to estimates, the journalist said.

Anyone driving on the borders of the city of Bangalore today remembers the photos of the last century. There is the International Exhibition Center in Bangalore. In the past, when there were still many flights abroad, when India’s economy was still booming and many technology companies in the city participated in exhibitions, they presented their products on site. As of Monday, the four showrooms have a new purpose – they are equipped with beds, in front of each – with a fan, with space for more than 10 thousand patients with Covid-19, according to the analysis of Der Spiegel.

Indian Silicon Valley is preparing for difficult times

In the last month, the incidence of coronavirus in the city has increased everywhere, as well as in many other parts of the country. For this reason, India is currently the third most affected by the pandemic in the world with officially almost 1.5 million registered coronary infections.

About 50,000 new cases are identified daily. Against the background of India’s population, this is still even small. But the country’s territorial scale is indicative that as Europe prepares for a possible second wave, the end of the first in India is not yet in sight.

1.37 billion people live in India – three times more than in the EU and more than in Africa. In this case, it is useful to see India as a continent, not a country – there are 28 states on its territory, many of which are more populous than most European countries.

India is not experiencing a major pandemic wave, but many waves that are sweeping across the country at different times and in different places. Sometimes one area recovers from the infection and then another is affected. First it was Mumbai, then Delhi, now Bangalore.

In July, the city again imposed restrictions on going out and traveling for a week. Traffic has dropped significantly since then. There is an increasing number of ambulances and masks.

Traveling by car requires maneuvers on detours – past homes with proven cases of coronavirus, the authorities mark the apartments or barricade the street. There are more than 12 thousand of these restricted areas in the city. Medical staff signaled dramatic conditions in hospitals.

The city of Delhi has had an increasing number of new infections for several weeks, despite an increase in the number of tests. However, this development must be assessed with a high degree of attention.

Data collection in India is historically poor. Delhi is also increasingly relying on quick tests that give results within minutes, but are much less reliable. This may be the reason for the low values ​​in the statistics – new cases are reported less often. However, the authorities object – the number of deaths has also been declining for some time.

The Indian Medical Research Council recently launched an antibody study, which caused sensation and skepticism. according to him more than 23% of Delhi residents are already infected with the coronavirus. This would mean 4-5 million inhabitants, instead of the currently known about 130 thousand cases. If these data turn out to be true, it would mean that only one out of 38 new infections is detected, which is worrying.

So far, according to official figures, about 33,000 Indians have died as a result of the coronavirus. However, it is certainly clear that these data do not coincide with reality. Even in normal times, no doctor issues a death certificate for about 80% of all deaths. In several cases, it has been found that doctors intentionally or subconsciously hide the cause of death.

Many deaths from coronavirus have not been reported. On the other hand, although the situation has been dramatic in many places, the great fear that hospitals in India may overcrowd has not yet materialized. So far, neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh have also reported relatively low mortality.

One reason for this is that many Indian cities are already able to control the flow of patients. This is done through isolation rooms such as those in Bangalore’s showrooms and the many hotels that have been turned into treatment centers. Once a day, patients should report their oxygen saturation and heart rate values. Only the seriously ill are admitted to hospitals. When the patient’s symptoms disappear, he is discharged.

Another explanation may be the young population of India – only 5% of Indians are over 65. But whether this is actually the cause and what happens when the coronavirus spreads in rural areas where medical care is scarce, still can not it is said. India urgently needs the most important thing in this pandemic – reliable data on morbidity, writes in conclusion Laura Höflinger.

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