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Kovid Korner,

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Dr Nitin Pandey

DEHRADUN, 26 Sep: The good news is that Coronavirus is now off the main Media headlines, not because it is now less harmful, but probably its “old story” now, which has reduced the obsessive focus of many people on the virus
leading to lesser stress levels, but the bad news is, in India, it is also allegedly due to directives of the government to the media (according to an article published in Lancet on 26th Sept 2020) to give a positive spin to COVID-19 issues which the journal says has led to pressure on news media and several professional organizations in India like the Indian Council of Medical Research to negate pessimism
and negativity associated with the outbreak, as a result of which transparency of data was less and negative news / data was not reported honestly leading to a dangerous false sense of well being.

One of the biggest issues facing India is the level of testing. In the International, scenario we conduct around 45,161 tests per million population and rank 112 in the list of nations based on testing, ashade below Iraq which is No 107 and Cuba which is number 110. US does 290,343 tests per million & UK 314,407 tests per million. Similarly in India as of now, 1 test is conducted per 22 people, Iraq does 1 test per 20, Cuba 1 test per 22. We seem to be in the wrong company. Over the
last week our testing has decreased by 10%, which could account for the reduced number of new cases detected.

Of the available figures, our positivity rate for tests has decreased to 6.3%, our National Mortality Rate is one of the lowest in the world, at 1.5% and our recovery rate is a whooping 82% now, which means we should have crossed the surge peak. Whether that turns out to
be the case, remains to be seen. Over the last few days recoveries have exceeded the number of new cases by a wide margin, on Saturday 85,362 people tested positive while 93,420 recovered, pushing the number of active cases down by 9,147 to 9,60,969. In Uttarakhand too, we have seen this over the last 6 days, on Saturday, for example, 1488 people recovered while new cases detected were 928. Whether this decrease can be attributed to a 10% decrease in testing across India
and in Uttarakhand, is something to think about. On Saturday in Uttarakhand we conducted 8145 tests, down from 13,000 tests a few days ago. But the good point is that the number of people who are actually
sick with the illness is well under control and most States across India have plenty of spare beds both in ICU and wards. In contrast, in  Dehradun(and probably across Uttarakhand too) there seems to be an acute shortage of ICU Beds and admission in a COVID hospital is a challenging affair. Our State Government must provide for additional  beds across the State on war footing to alleviate the trauma families of Covid patients are facing now. Another measure which our Government could take to make life easier for patients, is to follow the example of Delhi Government and give daily updates of the number of beds available in wards and in ICU’s and of ventilators available in differents hospitals so that patients don’t have to run between
hospitals. Contact numbers of hospitals and of authorized testing laboratories could also be made available to the general public in the daily updates released by the State Government.

Thankfully, life and commercial activity is almost returning to normal in Uttarakhand and across the country, adapting to the new normal quite well. Uttarakhand Government has been unlocking too, following the Central guidelines, in spite of local pressures to go against the guidelines by imposing lockdowns. Most people have now realized that
protecting their health is their own responsibility, rather than that of the government. An important point which most of us do not know is about NOT USING masks with expiratory valves. Expiratory Valves are rounded objects seen on the side of some masks which make it easier to breathe out, as the exhaled air passes through the valve rather than the filter in the mask. While this may ease the effort in breathing out, providing comfort to the wearer, it is dangerous for everyone else because the person is exhaling air unfiltered which increases the
risk of spreading the infection to others, while the wearer himself or herself is breathing in filtered air. So if you see someone near you, using an Expiratory Valve mask, please educate that person and insist that he or she wears a full mask. Finally, three important words Rishi Saunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, said two days ago, which are equally important for all of us here in India as
well and I quote “Live without fear”.