Covid 19 – Contemplations from India

Within the concept and contexts of a ‘Multiverse’, Mother Nature demands periodic, mandatory manipulations. Like geological adaptations and ecological assimilations, microbial invasions may be elemental impositions that She dictates to keep the ‘balance’, and for the ‘Act’ to continue.

The Covid-19 could be one such ‘obligatory adjustment’.

     India is ‘an equal opportunity’ participant in the ongoing saga of the Corona pandemic, a global calamity of the century, mercilessly muddling human lives from a multitude of established foundations. As the ‘microbial marathon’ got off the starting block, the country, quite surprisingly yet convincingly, was a cautious competitor. But as the race is entering ten months, and the destination-tape keeps shifting backwards, India is gathering a malevolent momentum, with the numbers spiking and the frightening anecdotes from them, surging.
     The first Corona patient of India, a medical student from Wuhan, China, came to Kerala, tested positive on January 30, 2020, admitted and discharged on February 19. The first death was of a 76-year-old Karnataka man on March 12. The initial hotspots were cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai, reporting crowded hospitals, mounting death-toll, shortage of healthcare workers and a dark cloud of terror cast over the nation.
     From July, the cases began spreading exponentially from metropolitan to rural areas, states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and UP leading the pack. From dignitaries to politicians, entertainers to sports personalities, rich or poor, irrespective of age or sex, the indiscriminate tsunami has been gobbling up our essential existence.
     Professor Ashish Jha, from Harvard Global Health Institute, (recently, Dean of Brown University), in an interview with Karan Thapar in June, referring to the Gu Model (YYG), implied the counts to be erroneous due to faulty data and may 152 far exceed the projections, eventually, half of India getting the Covid, with deathtoll into several millions. A more considerate SEIR model, though, predict the decline as early as mid-October. As of this writing and as per the Covid tracking App Arogya Setu, used by 160 million Indians, about 7 million are infected, almost a million active with around 80,000 daily new cases and the lives lost, exceeding 100,000.
     While the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) being the gold standard diagnostic test, the Health Ministry through ICMR has introduced faster and cheaper tests like antibody tests, rapid antigen and other types, doing about 1.2 million tests per day. Different states resorting to their own choice of testing, add to statistical inconsistencies.
     Kerala State, reporting three of the first 6 cases in India, made global headlines containing the spread, despite its highest population density and old-age people.
     Health Minister Shailaja teacher and her remarkable team initiated the ‘disaster management’ policies ahead of the Center and other states, implementing the ‘break the chain’ campaign. But by October, Kerala reminded the ‘rabbit and turtle’ fable, with maximum active cases per million, obviously, some irresponsible crowding from many, unruly events reversing all the early accomplishments.
     Government of India ordered its first 21-day-lockdown on March 24, extending it often, and unlocking in stages based on updated situations. The National Disaster Management Authority restricted movement of people across states and districts, limiting large assemblies, closing shopping complexes, cinema halls, religious institutions, and public transportation. The lockdowns slowed down the spread, buying time to study the disease and getting closer to vaccine availability. Most worthy of India, the largest global manufacturer of vaccines, is the country’s promise to provide vaccines worldwide, as Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of Poona referred to Sri Modi’s recent speech at UN Assembly, where the PM legitimately criticized UNGA for excluding India out of its decisionmaking structures.
     The Covid-19 has painfully hurt the Indian economy. GDP suffered a 24% drop in the April/June quarter, its domino effects infiltrating every segment of life and the nation predicted to have its worst recession since Independence. The government has liberally pumped in billions of dollars as financial aid, several other sources promising support.
     What lies ahead? Almost all the expert projections have been mirages in the mist. Each country has its own script, and so has India. The virus reaching into the vast and varied masses, our populous nation is still fighting its initial wave and struggling to contain and quash the infection. Following restrictions, anticipating herd immunity and availability of vaccine, the pandemic would eventually be 153 contained, though the lives compromised and damages inflicted before normalcy returns, would remain anybody’s guess.
     But the lessons we learned would hopefully jolt our conscience and common sense, waking us up into a ‘new beginning’, respecting Mother Nature, and adapting a harmonious and universally sustainable ‘Symbiotic Existence’.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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