India Coronavirus Dispatch: Air pollution can make the pandemic worse

Disruptions in medical services caused by the pandemic have led to further setbacks
Arunachal’s students: Students in Arunachal Pradesh are facing connectivity and Covid as twin obstacles. A group of music students, in particular, had to fight really hard to be able to attend their practice sessions. As these sessions can only be conducted in groups, meeting and gathering frequently became difficult. Their lessons are all online and network issues in rural Arunachal soon stonewalled any progress. To add to their woes, electric supply has also been erratic in the last few months. After the nationwide lockdowns were imposed, they had to migrate back to their states from across the country. The initial relief of returning home amidst a pandemic was soon replaced by frustration. Some students in the more remote regions of the state even shifted to urban areas with the hope of finding a stable internet connection. Read more here

Mask prices yet to be capped: Ten days after an expert committee in Maharashtra submitted a proposal to cap prices of masks, cutting the cost by 40 to 60 per cent, the proposal remains unimplemented. The state’s Health Minister had said that the recommendation of the committee would be implemented from October 8. The delay in final approval of the recommendation is on account of mask manufacturers crying foul, according to the report. The state had decided to check the prices of masks following a spate of complaints of the commodity being overpriced. The committee had recommended that the price of N-95 mask to be capped between Rs 15 and Rs 49. The prices for filtration face piece mask were advised to be kept at Rs 12, 3-ply meltblown mask at Rs 4 and 2-ply mask at Rs 3. Read more here

Air pollution and Covid: As Covid-induced lockdowns eased, pollution levels shot right back to the normal. With the annual smog season around the corner, experts warn that bad air could worsen the spread and severity of the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging research, currently being peer-reviewed, suggest that long-term exposure to pollution before the pandemic is associated with severe Covid-19 symptoms and a higher risk of death. A member of the prime minister’s Covid task force says the worst fears could come true if pollution levels are not appropriately controlled. The quality of air has a direct impact on a person’s immunity, say experts. The major fear for officials is how an already stretched public health care system will respond to this double whammy. Some studies even suggest high levels of particulate pollution in the air increases Covid-19 transmission. Read more here

TB notifications: Disruptions in medical services caused by the pandemic have led to further setbacks. According to a new report, India is among the countries that saw a huge drop in tuberculosis (TB) case notifications. After the imposition of lockdowns, the weekly and monthly number of TB case notifications dropped over 50 per cent between the end of March and late April. There has been some recovery since restrictions were eased but not to the same levels as seen before the pandemic. As compared to 1.2 million cases notified till June 2019, only 915,000 cases were recorded for the same period this year. The priority, say experts, is to catch up on all the missed patients. While the exact number of patients missed may be uncertain, what can be said for sure is that the pandemic has been a huge setback after years of steady progress against the disease. Read more here

Understanding Covid-19

Covid and childcare: Until now, experts weren’t sure how much children infect others with Covid. A new study, however, claims to have an estimate. The study has found that sending children to daycare centres is not associated with high levels of infection among staff working at the centre. However, it’s not yet known how much the virus can be spread among children themselves. But it is a first step in evaluating how safe group child care is during the pandemic. Covid has decimated the child care industry. What should be noted, however, is that even for the staff, the risk is not zero. Another concern among parents is whether infants should be required to wear masks. This aspect too needs to be studied. Read more here

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