India coronavirus dispatch: The State of healthcare for non-Covid patients

Crisis also brings opportunity for building a nurturing economy: Our economic and political policies must not be ends in themselves, but instruments for building a society that is secular, inclu-sive and nurturing, where people of all religions, caste, race and gender feel wanted and at home. Yet, so often we forget this and are exploitative in our interactions with society. The outcome of such behaviour is a threefold crisis which describes India’s current predicament — rising poverty and unemployment despite abundance, rising intolerance and violence, and environmental catastro-phe. Read more here.

Managing Covid-19 

 
Is India flattening the testing curve? Covid-19 has now spread to all 36 states and union territories in India, and the country has been reporting nearly 10,000 new cases every day for the past two weeks. Today, with over 360,000 cases, India has the fourth most number of reported cases in the world and the eighth most number of reported deaths, at 12,246. So as things stand, how is India doing on testing–an important measure of any country’s ability to identify, and subsequently isolate, coronavirus patients? Read more here.

 
How healthcare became unaffordable for non-Covid patients during the pandemic: People with chronic illnesses unrelated to Covid-19 are struggling to access affordable healthcare during the pandemic. With India’s entire health machinery focussed on the pandemic that has so far claimed more than 12,000 lives in the country, and a lockdown that lasted nearly two months and continues in patches, how has the cost of healthcare changed for people with non-Covid illnesses? Read more here.

Even after updating ‘backlog’ of deaths, Maharashtra’s Covid-19 data remains fishy: On June 16, Maharashtra’s official Covid-19 death toll surged to 5,537 as 1,328 ‘backlog’ fatalities were added into the figures, most of them from Mumbai. This followed a data reconciliation exercise to correct a discrepancy between Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) figures and the Maha-rashtra government’s own figures. It’s unclear how the discrepancy arose or if the reconciliation ex-ercise is complete. Read more here.

Covid-19 exposes lack of beds, inadequate facilities in north Karnataka: The pandemic has ex-posed India’s healthcare system, with state governments across the country scrambling to increase beds, hire epidemiologists and other specialists and purchase lifesaving equipment like ventilators. In Karnataka, the novel coronavirus has laid bare the state’s north-south divide. Karnataka has a total of 22,872 beds to treat Covid-19 patients, but the state’s health infrastructure is disproportion-ately distributed with more facilities in its southern districts – a testament to decades of political patronage. Read more here.

Indian companies are cashing in on the demand for ‘immunity-boosting’ products: Even as the ominous clouds of Covid-19 hang over the Indian economy, businesses are finding ways to make money. From turmeric milk to foot pedal dispensers, several Indian companies have in recent weeks launched new products or rebranded their existing offerings with a focus to lure customers who are worried about their health and are trying to maintain social distancing during the pandemic. Read more here.

Long reads 

Situating the biology of Covid-19: A conversation on disease and democracy: What have been the epidemiological and political responses to Covid-19, and what have been their implications for democracy? Four diasporic scholars, living and working in three continents examine, in a compara-tive perspective, how the pandemic has revealed relationships between disease, technocracy and governmental accountability, and argue for community-driven approaches rather than authoritarian interventions. Read more here.

Airport surveillance is about to reach a whole new level of ridiculousness: In the US, the Transpor-tation Security Administration is reportedly preparing to begin checking passengers’ temperatures before they board. New arrivals to the UK must, as of June 8, provide an address where they will self-isolate for 14 days. (Police will follow up with “surprise” in-person checks.) More than 45 coun-tries have rolled out “digital ankle bracelet” tracking apps, which are likely to be either mandatory or strongly encouraged for air travellers. Meanwhile, biometric scanning, to check people against their ID, is being aggressively tested by airports from Munich to Sydney. Read more here.

Understanding Covid-19

 
How TrueNat test works: A few weeks ago, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) ap-proved the use of TrueNat machines, manufactured by a Goa-based company, for carrying out con-firmatory tests for Covid-19 disease. Before that, these machines, which were originally developed for detecting tuberculosis in patients a few years ago, were being used in the cur-rent coronavirus pandemic only for screening patients. Read more here.

WHO closes major Hydroxychloroquine trial after other discouraging studies: The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after new data and studies showed no benefit. Read more here.

Flushing toilets can create virus ‘cloud’, says study, raises concern on Covid-19 spread: Flush-ing a toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets that lasts long enough for others to breathe in, according to researchers who used computer simulations for their study. It has raised the possibility of Covid-19 transmission with the use of toilets. Read more here.
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