India coronavirus dispatch: The story so far, from virology's point of view

Medics collect a swab sample of an air passenger from Chicago for COVID-19 test who landed in Hyderabad and arrived at his native city by bus, during the ongoing Covid-19 nationwide lockdown, in Vijayawada. Photo: PTI
Here is a round-up of important articles from across Indian publications on Covid-19. From ignoring the hype over any Covid vaccine, to absorbing reverse migrants in rural India, and why high doses of vitamin D can’t prevent Covid-19 – read these and more in today’s India dispatch.

Expert Speak

Ignore hype and euphoria over any Covid vaccine news for next 2-3 months: There have been several micro developments in vaccine testing around the world for Covid-19, but none conclusive enough to get excited about. Read this interview with Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines. Poonawalla says a functional vaccine will be developed in two years, and that either SII or another manufacturer will definitely produce a global vaccine for Covid-19.

Long Reads

The novel coronavirus story so far, from virology’s point of view: The pandemic has made clear the need for further research into many aspects of viruses. The authors of this story compile data about the basic properties of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and how it interacts with the body. They also discuss a number of questions about the virus, and perform "back-of-the-envelope" calculations to show the insights that can be gained from knowing key numbers and using quantitative reasoning. It is important to note that uncertainty remains, and while ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculations can improve our intuition, they cannot replace detailed epidemiological analysis. 


Muzzling the ICMR: Why do we know so little about Covid-infection levels in India? As India slowly prepares for the post-lockdown phase, it is important to release more spatially disaggregated data and clean up data systems. We have to get past the Ministry of Home Affairs’ frenetic announcements about multi-coloured zones, without any official data in the public domain about test positivity rates in states, leave alone districts. Read more here

Managing Covid-19

Overpopulated, too reliant on agriculture, rural India can’t absorb reverse migrants: Rural India is incapable of absorbing the estimated 23 million interstate and intrastate migrant labourers who might return home from urban areas due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Restarting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and boosting micro, small and medium enterprises — both measures announced for Covid-19 relief — could help bring the rural economy back on track but will not be enough to solve the reverse migration problem. Read more here

Covid-19 cases in Kashmir still on the rise, doctors unhappy with policymakers: With eight Covid-19 deaths and more than 350 people testing positive for the infection in less than a week, the coronavirus graph in Kashmir is rising, throwing up new challenges for health authorities. From expecting mothers to doctors, patients admitted to hospitals for routine procedures and policemen, the fresh cases since Friday have health authorities worried, given that infection curve in the state had been understood to be flattening in the past few weeks. Read more here

In new advisory, ICMR renews HCQ use as evidence remains lax: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued a new advisory on May 22 renewing its commitment to the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a prophylactic against Covid-19 among India’s frontline healthcare workers. This is strange because the new advisory, while tacitly acknowledging that the previous one did not present clinical evidence in favour of the apex research body’s decision, presents sub-par or insufficient evidence this time around to expand the scope of HCQ’s use instead of shrinking it – a paradoxical change. Read more here

Understanding Covid-19

High doses of vitamin D cannot prevent or treat Covid-19, scientists say: There is currently insufficient scientific evidence to prove that vitamin D can be beneficial in preventing or treating Covid-19. Following several reports that high doses of vitamin D could reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 and be used to successfully treat the virus, scientists analysed the current scientific evidence on the vitamin and its use in treating infections. Read more here

In pregnant women with Covid-19, injuries in placenta: It is by now understood that a pregnant woman can possibly transmit the novel coronavirus to her baby (or also deliver a healthy baby). The Indian Council of Medical Research laid down norms for the care of mother and child last month itself. Now, a new concern has emerged around pregnant women who have Covid-19 — damaged placentas. Read more here


The apparel industry’s new pattern for a post-Covid comeback: Stores and malls are closed. For the apparel industry, that’s a physical reminder that business is closed, literally. When customers do come back, many things will have changed. Meanwhile, India has lost ground to Bangladesh, Vietnam and Sri Lanka in serving the global market. The task for the Indian apparel industry now is to focus on evolving creative solutions and strategies for the post-Covid-19 life. Watch this interview on how the experiences the industry goes through, besides innovations and experiments, might well be relevant to other consumer businesses. 


‘Lack of clarity from Centre contributed to losses suffered by farmers’: Siraj Hussain, former secretary in the Union agriculture ministry, spoke about the impact of the Covid-19-induced lockdown on the agriculture economy. From the success of wheat procurement in Haryana and Punjab to the plight of vegetable, fruit and flower growers who have suffered massive losses, he delved deep into the issues and challenges that have been thrown up. Hussain also argued that a form of enhanced income support to farmers was an essential need during this time of crisis. Listen here

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel