India Coronavirus Dispatch: Infection data deleted from research paper

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Covid numbers hushed up: Researchers, under government orders, removed infection prevalence data in containment zones and hotspots from a scientific paper. The data from 10 cities’ hotspots were expunged in this way. The paper was concerning a survey conducted to find the proportion of the population infected by the virus using randomly selected blood samples. The survey was conducted by ICMR in collaboration with other institutions to determine virus prevalence rate in early May. Acting under the directives of ICMR director-general, Balram Bhargava, the scientists then omitted the prevalence data altogether. The paper, published this month, reported only low prevalence rates seen in some districts. Co-authors of the paper say Bhargava had told them that they were not authorised to publish the prevalence data without making it clear why. Read more here

Only 4% get ICU beds via routine process: According to a new pan-India survey, only 4 per cent of the patients who needed ICUs were able to get through the routine process. 78 per cent of the respondents said they had to use connections and clout to get access to an ICU bed. In Pune, for example, only 5 per cent got the bed via the routine process while 32 per cent had to rely on connections. The survey is based on over 17,000 responses from 211 districts from across India. 55 per cent of the total respondents said they did not have anyone in their network who needed an ICU bed. These names were then filtered out. Further, 7 per cent of those surveyed said they had to bribe hospital or government officials to avail the ICU bed. Read more here

Chandigarh’s high transmission rate: The caseload in Chandigarh has breached the 10,000-mark. Of these, 3,000 are active cases and the number of asymptomatic carriers has been on the rise. The transmission rate in the city is very high, says a local public health expert. Another suggests community testing as the strategy forward. Population-based surveillance and isolation of asymptomatic patients is what another suggests. The city’s hospitals have reached their capacity. The city’s high number of prolonged asymptomatic cases is an issue since their viral load is similar to that of a symptomatic patient. Public surveillance, therefore, becomes even more necessary. Read more here

In numbers

Maharashtra still drives the pandemic: Nearly half of the total active cases added in the country in September came from Maharashtra. At the beginning of September, the state had 198,000 cases which shot up to 291,000 as of now. This is an increase of 92,000 or 46 per cent. Incidentally, it’s also 46 per cent of the total active cases added nationally in the month. The state detected almost 400,000 new infections in the first 20 days of the month. During the same period, around 300,000 recovered and 7,000 died. However, Maharashtra’s contribution to the country’s total caseload has been declining. A few months back, the state accounted for 40 per cent of the nation’s caseload which has now come down to 22 per cent. However, the state still continues to largely drive the pandemic as showcased by its contribution to active cases. Read more here


Regulating private healthcare: This interview addresses the issue of hospitals that continue to fleece patients despite regulations being in place. The expert says that overbilling was accepted as a commonplace phenomenon even prior to the pandemic in private hospitals. However, not only has this trend continued but evidence suggests that it may have intensified. Hospitals, she says, are able to inflate charges freely in the absence of transparent billing. This is on account of arbitrary charges that have made their way into the billing system such as biomedical waste disposal charges, medical history assessment charges and Resident Medical Officer charges. Even insurers have refused to reimburse Covid-19 rates as many of the charges are arbitrary. Read the interview here


Untested AYUSH medicines: Recently, the AYUSH Ministry asked UP’s AYUSH society to use a kit of different AYUSH medicines to treat Covid-19 in different districts of the state. To test the efficacy of this kit, the ministry had started a clinical trial. The results of this trial still remain obscure. One of the drugs in this kit, AYUSH-64, is based on the premise of a 2018 study that tested its efficacy against influenza-like illnesses. Further, even this study had major design flaws. The columnist says this kind of sate-funded distribution of untested and unproven medication is potentially harmful. Read more here

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