By Dr Nitin Pandey
On Sunday, India’s total Coronavirus cases (around 42 lakhs) just surpassed the total cases in Brazil, 7 months after the first case in January this year. This was expected and should come neither as a surprise, nor as a shock, and it is not because we are handling the COVID-19 outbreak badly but because of the sheer volume of our population.
We are 1.3 billion strong, Brazil’s population is 0.2 billion. United States, whose population is 0.3 billion has almost 64 lakh cases. Fortunately, our death rate, which now stands at 1.73 %, is one of the lowest in the world. We have lost around 70,000 people to the Coronavirus nationwide, since January, while US and Brazil have had almost 2 and 1.3 lakh fatalities. But let there be no doubt, one day we will have the highest number of cases in the World, as our population is four times that of US.
Since January, we have had approximately 41 lakh cases with 32 lakh recoveries, leaving only 8 lakh something active cases nationwide. Please also remember that a positive case does not mean the person is ill or is even a patient, it simply means he or she tested positive and had the virus in the upper respiratory tract. According to the Health Ministry, just under 3.5% would need oxygen, which means, as of today, across India, the number of people who needed oxygen is just around 30,000 and people who need ICU admission (2%) and ventilators (0.5%) are 17,246 and 4,311 respectively. Yes, of course, the numbers will keep rising for some time now. How long, no one can predict but the important point is, if one analyses the situation, it is not as bad as it may seem.
Uttarakhand, too, is witnessing the start of a surge this week with daily new highs being reached, but this is expected and no cause for alarm. What is important though is that we practice social distancing and mask wearing and ENSURE that the person near us is following them, too. Simply wearing a mask oneself while the other person is not, leaves one 80% at risk but if both wear a mask, chances of catching an infection drops sharply to 20%. The important point to understand is that the severity of the illness is directly proportional to the amount of virus load you are exposed to. A low dose may give you a mild asymptomatic infection (where you will test positive), a slightly higher dose can give you mild fever and body ache only but a high load can cause serious illness, hence the importance of protecting yourself. While you cannot totally avoid catching the virus, you can at least ensure you get a very low dose of infection and get immunity without falling sick, by taking personal protective measures.
So, keep your mask up, head up and go about your daily life as normally as you can. The virus is here to stay and we have to learn to live with it.
(Dr Nitin Pandey is a Dehradun based ex Indian Air Force doctor, a Pediatrician and an active Social worker.)