Home Trips During Eid: Crowds may help spread virus

Experts warn of worsening Covid-19 situation as thousands are leaving city areas in crowded vehicles to celebrate Eid in their village homes, ignoring social distancing and sometimes not wearing masks.

When they will return after the festival, the virus transmission rate may spike above 1 on the R-naught scale, warn experts.

R-naught, also called R0, is a representation of the number of new infections estimated to result from a single case. Lower R-naught score means fewer new cases and higher score means the opposite. It gives insightful information that helps policymakers decide when to enforce strict lockdowns and when to lift the restrictions, said experts.

An R value of 1 means the infection rate is stable, while anything above 1 means the disease has become an epidemic, according to health experts.

An R value below one means that each infected person transmits the pathogen to less than one person, thus eventually fizzling out the contagion.

Since confirmation of the first Covid-19 case in the country on March 8, the highest R value was registered on April 9 at 2.1, according to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

The average R value went below one for the first time on July 4.

On July 9, the value was 0.938. It was around that level till last week.

But then the R value started rising and on July 27 it reached 0.951.

Talking about data from the IEDCR , its Principal Scientific Officer ASM Alamgir said, “It seems people have suddenly forgotten health rules and don’t care much about the pandemic.”

The scientist feels that many people have become nonchalant about maintaining social distancing and using protective gear.

Alamgir also observed that people’s movement centring Eid have increased.

The consequence of these is likely to be seen by the second week of August, when there might be a surge in the number of infections, he said on Monday.

Experts said if movement was restricted during this Eid, the virus transmission could be stemmed.

In that case, the R value would come down further, allowing the outbreak to be contained.

“But the way we are behaving, it seems that the situation will deteriorate in the coming days,” said Alamgir.

In Saudi Arabia, the transmission average R-naught went under 1 [0.93] so the authorities there relaxed preventive measures.

But within a few days, the transmission rate jumped above 1, forcing the authorities to reinforce the measures, added the experts.

Meanwhile, Mushtuq Husain, IEDCR consultant and epidemiologist, said since the number of Covid-19 tests carried out every day is not the same, the information obtained from test results is not stable.

“But one thing is clear — the detection rate [the percentage of positive coronavirus cases out of the number of samples tested] is almost the same,” he said on Monday.

Mushtuq said the stable detection rate could have been used to avert any untoward situation in the future. “But we are wasting this opportunity by a sense of complacency,” he noted.

Since the country’s first death from coronavirus on March 18, the total number of Covid-19 deaths reached the 3,000 mark on Tuesday.

The tally of the total cases was 2,32,194 till yesterday. 


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