India coronavirus dispatch: Visualising a response moving forward

Indian nationals from Bahrain and Oman after completing their isolation period at a quarantine facility of Indian navy in Kochi, Thursday, June 4, 2020. Photo: PTI
Here is a round-up of articles in Indian news publications on how the country is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. From patients struggling to find hospital beds, to the crisis moving to the rural parts, and what a new study says about hydroxychloroquine – read these and more in today’s India dispatch.


‘One Nation One Ration Card’ could have changed how the pandemic affected migrants: The government’s proposal for ‘one nation one ration card’ is a longstanding need for migrant labourers across the country. The proposed measure will provide workers not only with monthly food entitlements wherever they are living for work, but also improve their nutritional status. Tracing developments in the public distribution system (PDS), it can be seen that India followed a universal system for a long time and replaced it with a targeted one from 1997. The purpose was mainly to contain the mounting fiscal burden due to food subsidies and increase the efficiency of the PDS by making food reach households that need it. Read more here

Citizens Under Lockdown

Healthcare and nutrition for women in Assam was already inadequate, and then came Covid-19: In Assam, the unemployment rate is likely to increase and settle in the range between 14 per cent and 25 per cent from the current level of 8 per cent and poverty ratio is expected to rise to 50.8 per cent for the state in the worst possible scenario with a 15 per cent fall in income. The figure is estimated to be 54 per cent for rural Assam. The reproductive healthcare and nutritional security of women and children are severely challenged with the additional burden of a possible escalation in poverty in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and impeding flood during monsoons. Read more here

The wages of Covid-19 lockdown in Dharavi – a sense of panic, loss of self: Crammed with makeshift tin and concrete shanties, Dharavi’s houses are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus. It is common for more than 100 people to use a single bathroom. It is quite likely that someone who has been infected with Covid-19 has used it that same day. In the 2.02 sq km spread of Dharavi, there are 225 public toilets for a population of 850,000, out of which over 1,849 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 as on June 3. That is higher than the number of infections in all of Assam or Kerala. Read more here


Few Covid-19 patients need ventilators, yet Mumbai is falling short. Here’s why: The number of patients on ventilators and in ICUs in the city of Mumbai, which has more cases than any other Indian city or state, is high. For instance, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has put out figures showing that 72 per cent of ventilators and 99 per cent of ICUs are currently occupied. Read this interview with two specialists at the frontlines — Farah Ingle, senior consultant, internal medicine at Fortis Network and Hiranandani, and Bharat G Jagiasi, head, critical care, at Reliance Hospital, both based in Navi Mumbai — to understand why this is the case. Read more here

Managing Covid-19

As coronavirus cases soar in Delhi, patients are struggling to find hospital beds: On June 2, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched a mobile application called “Delhi Corona” that would have information about Covid-19 beds and ventilators occupied and vacant in public as well as private hospitals across the capital. According to the government’s press release, the information on the app is updated twice a day. If hospital authorities refuse to admit patients despite availability being shown on the app, patients can call helpline number 1031. However, several Delhi residents say that the figures for bed availability do not tally with the information they are being given by hospital authorities. Read more here 

The Covid-19 crisis is moving to India’s rural areas: Rural parts of India have begun to see a surge in novel coronavirus infections, as millions of migrant workers returning from big cities and industrial hubs bring the virus home with them, according to data collected from seven Indian states. Officials said the spike in cases was a fresh challenge for the country’s health authorities, even as they struggled to check the outbreak in cities amid the easing of a months-long lockdown. Confirmed cases in India crossed the 200,000 mark on Wednesday. Some experts say that a peak remains weeks away. Read more here

India can build the boat as it sails rough Covid crisis waters, but it should know where to go: Moving forward, we need to visualise the Covid-19 response like a three-dimensional chess game, with ‘health’, ‘economy’, ‘social’, and ‘political’ fronts being the multiple boards. Like in chess, we need not only to weigh the pros and cons of all the moves available to us, but also anticipate the opponent’s counter move and plan the subsequent response. And, like in chess, there are three phases — opening, middle-game and end-game. Read more here

Can Mumbai handle Covid-19 and monsoons? Floods, malaria, dengue, and a tough few months for Maharashtra. But 2020 has a twist. Maharashtra is the worst-hit state with over 70,000 Covid-19 cases and over 2,000 recorded deaths according to the Union health ministry. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are already overburdened and hospitals are nearly at capacity. How will the maximum city handle the predicted rise in Covid-19 and monsoon-related illnesses that will peak around the same time from mid-June to July? Read more here

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