Editorial: Retreating pandemic

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While it is comforting that India now has a firm grip on the coronavirus pandemic with its curve showing a steady decline over the past few months, there should be no room for complacency in terms of following the protocols like wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. In fact, public awareness about these measures and strict compliance have yielded good results in the battle against the virus. The Covid-19 caseload hit a peak in September last year and has consistently declined since then. This is significant because many countries have been grappling with fresh waves of infections or more dangerous variants of the pathogen. Last September, India was reporting a daily average of nearly 1 lakh cases. But, the number has since plummeted, with 9,100 new cases being recorded on January 26, the lowest daily tally in eight months. This is due to the classic public health measures like promoting hygiene and masks, enhanced testing and ramping up healthcare infrastructure. Several other factors like better immunity among the general population because of the history of exposure to other viruses, demography, pattern of the disease spread and mutation of the virus into a milder form could also be contributing to flattening the curve. The pressure on hospitals has come down drastically with the drop in the number of patients. There is a growing body of evidence, though not conclusive, that India’s climate may have helped in reducing the spread of the virus.

The droplets of the virus may stay afloat longer in the air that is cold and dry. When the air is humid and warm, these droplets fall to the ground more quickly and it makes transmission of the virus harder. Another factor that has engaged the attention of the scientists is that millions of Indians may have developed a robust immune system because of their exposure to grave diseases like malaria, dengue, typhoid and hepatitis. A study by Indian scientists from Chennai and Pune found that low and middle-income countries with less access to healthcare facilities, hygiene and sanitation actually have lower Covid-19 deaths per capita. Another study by scientists at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College in Himachal Pradesh found that Covid-19 deaths per capita are lower in countries where people are exposed to a diverse range of microbes and bacteria. With 1.54 lakh deaths, India has a mortality rate of 1.44%, which is much lower than that of the United States or many European countries. Moreover, India is a very young country, with more than half the population being under 25. Those who are young are less likely to die of the disease.


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