India coronavirus dispatch: 'Infodemic' is as dangerous as the virus itself

Medics prepare before collecting samples for swab tests from a COVID-19 mobile testing van, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, at Ramakrishna Mission area in New Delhi. Photo: PTI
Here is a round-up of important articles from across Indian publications on Covid-19. From Kerala’s smart testing and community care, to hospitals putting off elective surgeries, and the progress with solidarity trials so far — read these and more in today’s India dispatch.


‘Testing smartly, community care part of Kerala’s Covid-19 strategy’: Hard-learnt lessons from the 2018 Nipah outbreak and quick, decisive moves by the chief minister are what helped Kerala get a handle on the coronavirus outbreak in the state early on, according to KK Shailaja, minister for health, social justice & women and child development, Government of Kerala. Read an interview with her here

Expert Speak

Deaths per million key indicator of Covid containment and case management: While indicators such as case fatality and doubling time are being analysed to understand the spread of the pandemic, the number of deaths per million people is a good indicator of containment of contagion and of case management, says K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India, adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, and former head of department of cardiology at AIIMS. A slow increase in this number, combined with a fall in new deaths per day, indicates good control, he adds. Read more here

Managing Covid-19

Covid-19 misinformation is spreading as fast as the disease. Here’s how to counter it: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Covid-19-related infodemic is as dangerous as the virus itself. False preventive measures, hinder the fight against the illness. Rumours, myths and exaggerated facts fuel new forms of xenophobia online and offline. Many people are being insulted, assaulted or denied services. Religious, minority and elite groups are being blamed online for its spread. Several measures have been put in place to curb the circulation of fake news. Read more about them here

Telugu media sensationalising Covid-19, triggers mental health issues, say doctors: ‘Mahammaari’ (deadly disease), ‘vistarana’ (spread), ‘udruti’ (severity), ‘Andhra Pradesh lo roju roju ki peruguthunna caselu’ (rising cases in AP day by day) — these are the typical phrases one has been hearing on several Telugu news channels for the past two months, accompanied by piercing background score. According to medical professionals and media observers, a section of the news media sensationalising coronavirus-related stories is resulting in serious mental health issues among people with medical history and stoking panic among the general public. Read more here
Hospitals may put off elective surgeries until after Covid-19 peaks: The central government, in its advisory released on March 20, had directed hospitals and medical institutions to postpone non-essential elective surgeries up to March 31, 2020, and this was to be reviewed “according to evolving situation”. It has been more than two months since then and Covid-19 cases are showing no signs of abating. With just four days left for the fourth phase of the lockdown to end on May 31, 2020, resuming elective surgeries is critical, as delay could lead to a spike in diseases and deaths in the coming weeks, health experts say. Read more here

Govt could now home-deliver mother & child care drugs, contraceptives in containment zones: The government is planning to organise home delivery of folic acid, calcium and zinc tablets, oral rehydration solution sachets and contraceptives in containment zones to plug the loopholes in mother and child healthcare under the Covid-19 lockdown. Areas where Covid-19 cases are reported to have been classified as ‘containment zones’, and the surrounding areas are called buffer zones. Read more here


What effects has the lockdown had on the evolution of Covid-19 in India? The Indian government argues that lockdown has successfully reduced the spread of the novel coronavirus, while some critics argue that it has largely failed. Where does the truth lie? What exactly does the available data, coupled with modelling, tell us? Read here

A time for reform in courts: The pandemic has turned the world on its head. No aspect of life has escaped unscathed. This includes the functioning of courts and tribunals. The judiciary has limited its work to hearing urgent matters via video conferencing. A lot has been written about how this is an opportunity to improve IT infrastructure of courts so that they can move to video conference hearings as the norm. However, any such move without first revamping procedural law would be futile. Read more here

Understanding Covid-19

Solidarity Trial: What progress has been made so far? The WHO announced it would no longer assign patients to the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) arm of the multi-country Solidarity Trial on possible treatments for Covid-19. The announcement raises several questions, particularly in India, which is a major manufacturer/exporter of the drug and has also reposed implicit faith in its therapeutic and prophylactic role for health workers exposed to Covid-19 cases. Read more here

Hospital staff with Covid-19 produced antibodies that could prevent reinfection, says study: Almost all doctors and nurses who got mild forms of Covid-19 produced antibodies that could prevent reinfection, according to a study conducted on hospital staff in northeastern France. The study of 160 volunteers shows all but one developed antibodies within 15 days after the start of infection. Almost all of the staff tested had antibodies that were capable of neutralising the virus within 41 days of developing symptoms. Read more here

In gene linked to dementia, a correlation with severe Covid: A new study has found a link between the severity of Covid-19 and a gene linked to dementia. Having a faulty gene linked to dementia doubles the risk of developing severe Covid-19, according to the large-scale study, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. Read more here 

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